Polygamy and bigamy are related to each other but are separate and distinct. In Oklahoma, our attorneys deal with it in both the area of divorce and criminal law. Both polygamy and bigamy involve situations where one person is married or in a marital relation with three or more partners. Although the two concepts are different they are often times conflated with each other. Read on and lets try to make the distinctions more clear.
Polygamy Defined in Oklahoma
Polygamy refers to the practice of having multiple spouses at the same time. It is often associated with a man having multiple wives, but it can also refer to a woman having multiple husbands or a group of people of any gender configuration sharing multiple spouses. For the United States polygamy is popularized by the Hollywood show called Big Love. In this fictitious show the inner workings of the Church of Latter Day Saints demonstrated how this out dated practice supposedly worked. In reality, Polygamy is rare in most of the world and is no longer practiced by the Moorman faith.
Is Polygamy Illegal
Polygamy is illegal in many countries, including the United States. The reasons for this vary, but often relate to concerns around issues such as gender inequality, exploitation, and abuse of power. For example, in some cases, women may be coerced into entering into polygamous marriages, and they may not have the same legal rights or protections as other spouses in the marriage. In addition, some argue that polygamy can lead to social problems, such as competition for resources and jealousy among spouses, which can harm individuals and communities.
What Is Bigamy
Bigamy, on the other hand, is the act of marrying someone while still legally married to another person. It is a form of polygamy, but not all forms of polygamy are bigamy. Bigamy, or the marriage to more than one partner can be either accidental or on purpose. In Oklahoma a great example of perhaps an accidental second marriage is found as a result of common law marriage. In this example, one party to the common law marriage may not actually know they are married by common law. When the relationship ends, if they don’t actually get a divorce and subsequently remarry they have committed bigamy.
Is Bigamy Illegal
Most states throughout the country have criminalized the crime of bigamy. In Oklahoma bigamy is considered a felony crime. If convicted of the crime the range of sentencing is 0 to 5 years in prison. As with any crime, to get a conviction the prosecutor must show that the accused actually committed the crime of bigamy and that they intended to comitt the crime. To do this the prosecutor may introduce proof at trial of the first marriage. This is done by presenting a valid marriage certificate. Next they will have to show the accused actually married another person while still married to the original partner.
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