Answer: Bigamy is a crime, and thus can only be filed in the courts by a prosecutor.
But citizens can assert bigamy as a reason why they should be granted a divorce, or even recover damages from their partner.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Who Can File Bigamy Charges? (Discussion)
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What Is Bigamy?
Bigamy is a criminal offense.
This offense may be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the state where the case could be filed.
The elements of the offense of bigamy may differ some from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but they are usually something like:
- while legally married
- an individual marries someone else other than his spouse in the same state, a different state, or different country,
- knowing that another person is married
- an individual marries said person in the same state, a different state, or different country
The statutes make it criminal for both the already married person and the person marrying the already married person.
Filing Bigamy Charges
Since bigamy is a criminal offense, the ultimate charging decision can only be made by the prosecutor (aka district attorney).
The prosecutor will look at the facts of the case as reported, then make a charging decision to file or not to file.
While private citizens (or even victims) can provide their opinions to the prosecutor, only the prosecutor gets to decide.
Private citizens do not get to “bring charges” or “drop charges” in criminal court.
Bigamy is rarely prosecuted without other serious circumstances, such as use of bigamy to defraud individuals or the government.
Bigamy on the Civil Side
While private citizens cannot file bigamy charges, the circumstances of the bigamy are relevant in family law cases, as well as civil claims for misrepresentation/fraud/pain and suffering.
The bigamy would also be relevant in a divorce or annulment proceeding.
Should Bigamy Charges Be Filed?
People are often very hurt and emotional when they discover the bigamous situation.
They may report the bigamy to the authorities before thinking through the impacts of a prosecution.
A prosecution could cause the offender to lose his job and make it hard for him to get a job, which could make it hard for him to pay for child support.
Voiding the marriage could result in the loss of the opportunity for spousal support or other property awards that would have resulted in the divorce.
The bigamous marriage could result in the loss of government benefits (social security) or health insurance.
Thinking of Reporting Bigamy or Encouraging The Filing of Bigamy Charges?
Before pursing the charges, it might be worthwhile to sit down with an attorney who has experience in both criminal law and family law in the state where the bigamy case would likely be prosecuted.
The attorney can help troubleshoot whether the reporting individual faces any criminal implications of her own, and how the bigamy could impact the familial situation (children, support, property, benefits).
In some states, there are civil claims that can be asserted for pain and suffering.
Facing Bigamy Charges?
The best thing to do is confer with an attorney who has experience with both family law and criminal defense.
If the situation involves immigration issues, definitely confer with an immigration law specialist, as it is rare for criminal defense lawyers or family law attorneys to be well-versed in immigration law in addition to defense and/or family law.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
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- Accidental Bigamy Information and Options
- How to Prove Bigamy in Texas
- Why is Bigamy Illegal?
- Bigamy vs Polygamy: What’s the Difference?
- Bigamy vs Digamy: What’s the Difference?
- How Do Bigamists Get Caught?
- Is Bigamy Grounds for Annulment?
- Can You Go To Jail For Bigamy?
- Who Can File Bigamy Charges?
- How to Report Bigamy