You are permitted to have one marriage at a time. A person married to someone who is still married to another is in a bigamous relationship. Family Codes recognizes the first marriage as the valid marriage and the second marriage as void under state law. In this blog we will use Bob, Susan, and Jackie to help explain how bigamy affects family law.
BOB, SUSAN, AND JACKIE
Bob married Susan. Bob and Susan split up but do not divorce. Bob meets Jackie. Bob then marries Jackie. Bob’s marriage to Jackie is void because he is still married to Susan.
WHAT ABOUT JACKIE?
Under the state Family Code, the marriage to Susan is the valid marriage and Jackie is out-of-luck. But, Jackie is not without some relief under the state Family Code. If Susan dies or divorces Bob, then Jackie’s marriage to Bob becomes valid if at that time Jackie and Bob are living together and telling people they are married. The marriage between Bob and Jackie would become a common law marriage beginning on the day Susan dies or divorces Bob.
There are a few things Jackie must consider while she is in the relationship with Bob. Jackie has no rights as a spouse while Susan is still married to Bob. This means, no tax benefits, no inheritance benefits, no spousal privilege, no beneficiary benefits. Most importantly, the community property that Jackie thinks belongs to her actually belongs to Susan.
Jackie has a few choices once she finds out that Bob is still married to Susan. Jackie can leave. She does not need to file for divorce or annulment. The marriage to Bob does not exist. Jackie can take the additional step of having a family court declare the marriage to Bob void just in case she marries again in the future.
CAN JACKIE RECOVER ANYTHING?
Under state law, Jackie could be called the putative spouse, as a family law and divorce lawyer Arlington TX trusts can explain. Basically, if Jackie had a reasonable and good faith belief that her marriage to Bob was valid and acted as a spouse to Bob she would be a putative spouse. Jackie would be able to recover some of the would be community property during her marriage to Bob, along with repayment of her assets used towards the marriage with Bob. The division of property would be similar to a property division in a divorce. Jackie is limited on her recovery though. Jackie can only recover for the time the void marriage began until the time she discovered the marriage to Susan.
If you or anyone you know has questions pertaining to family law or wishes to have a free 30-minute consultation, please contact a family law attorney.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law PLLC for their insights into family law and biamy.