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(bĭ`gəmē), crime of marrying during the continuance of a lawful marriage. Bigamy is not committed if a prior marriage has been terminated by a divorcedivorce,
partial or total dissolution of a marriage by the judgment of a court. Partial dissolution is a divorce "from bed and board," a decree of judicial separation, leaving the parties officially married while forbidding cohabitation.
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 or a decree of nullity of marriagenullity of marriage,
in law, an unlawful marriage that is either void or voidable because of conditions existing at the time of the marriage. A bigamous or incestuous marriage, for example, is void, and there is no need to bring a suit to obtain a decree declaring it void.
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. In the United States if a husband or wife is absent and unheard of for seven (or in some states five) years and not known to be alive, he or she is presumed dead, and remarriage by the other spouse is not bigamous. It is not necessarily a defense to a charge of bigamy that the offending party believed in good faith that he was divorced or that his previous marriage was not lawful.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1878 that plurality of wives (polygamy), as originally permitted by the Mormon religion, violated criminal law and was not defensible as an exercise of religious liberty. The Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890, but the practice has persisted among some, although it has been rarely prosecuted.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



and polygamy, in Soviet criminal law, cohabitation of a man with two or several women, provided that the man establishes a household separately with each of the women or simultaneously with all of them. In either case it is insignificant whether the marriages with these women have been registered. It is sufficient to establish the facts of cohabitation and keeping house together.

The social danger of bigamy is that it hinders the actual emancipation of women and violates the principle of monogamy. The law provides for punitive measures of deprivation of freedom for up to one year or correctional tasks for the same term (see, for example, the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, arts. 235–36). Criminal responsibility for bigamy and polygamy is provided for by the legislation of the Azerbaijan, Armenian, Georgian, Kirghiz, Tadzhik, Turkmen, and Uzbek Soviet socialist republics and in the RSFSR in several autonomous Soviet socialist republics and national okrugs (the Bashkir, Buriat, Dagestan, Kabarda-Balkar, and Tatar autonomous Soviet socialist republics, Adygei and Gorno-Altai autonomous oblasts, and Aga-Buriat, Komi-Permiak, and Koriak national okrugs)—that is, where the vestiges of a tribal way of life have not been completely eradicated.

Bigamy and polygamy should be distinguished from illegal registration of marriage with two or several women. The legislation of all the union republics prohibits the registration of a marriage without the dissolution of a previous marriage. Failure to comply with this legislation constitutes a special form of crime (for example, the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, art. 201).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the crime of marrying a person while one is still legally married to someone else
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
An article on bigamous marriages taken from a family history magazine makes the point that: There was more bigamy about in Victorian times than is generally known, as divorce was virtually impossible for the ordinary person, being expensive and complicated, and did not become generally accessible to all classes until the introduction of legal aid in the 1920s.
Among the grounds cited in the bill are physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner; homosexuality of any of the spouses; bigamous marriage; marital infidelity or perversion or having a child with another person outside the marriage; abandonement without ajustifiable cause for more than one year and drug addiciton, habiltual alcoholism or chronic gamgling of the resondent.
The following grounds may be subjected to summary judicial proceeding: de facto separation for at least five years, bigamous marriage, legal separation for at least two years, imprisonment for six years, gender reassignment surgery, and joint petition of the spouses for the dissolution of their marriage.
Dissolution of marriage meanwhile, could be filed based on the following grounds: when a joint petition is filed based on the grounds provided for absolute divorce; when one of the spouses has undergone a sex reassignment surgery; when the spouses have been living separately de facto for at least five years; when one of the spouses has contracted a bigamous marriage and when one of the spouses have been legally separated by a judicial decree for two years.
She refers to such marriages as bigamous, that is, marriages in which at least one of the partners was still legally married to a living spouse.
December 19, 1922, Rosilla Patience Barton (bigamous wife) John Fisher, aged 58.
Yvonne, from Hoylake, Wirral, was in daily contact in the lead-up to his illegal marriage, exchanging 11 emails with him about bed linen the day before his bigamous wedding.
By the time Gul joined her husband in 2008, Rahim had fathered four kids after a bigamous marriage to a Scots woman.
Sarah Harding - see Question 10 the wife of a bigamous taxi driver?
The series also sees singer Katherine Jenkins discover her grandmother's hidden musical career and shocking details of her family's bigamous past.
FAMILY doctor Zabina Shahian won pounds 4,000 compensation after her politician husband tricked her into a bigamous marriage.
A BIGAMOUS bride who earned thousands of pounds from a bogus wedding scam has been spared jail after a court heard she was mentally ill.