In Tennessee, most people know that they can only legally marry one person at a time. In other words, one must go through a divorce from a current spouse before tying the knot with another.
But, there are times when a person believes him or herself to be the subject of a successful divorce filing when tying that second knot. Nonetheless, that person may find that there are now grounds for the other, first spouse to file for divorce on the basis of fault. There may also be criminal repercussions.
Crime of bigamy
Aside from lending itself to a fault-based divorce, bigamy can also be a criminal offense under Tennessee’s criminal code section, 39-15-301. It is a Class A misdemeanor.
However, in the divorce setting, double-dipping bigamy can be “fault” grounds for a divorce, in addition to legal trouble.
Bigamy is grounds for a fault divorce
Tennessee’s statute, 36-4-101, Grounds for divorce from bonds of matrimony, makes clear that if a person knowingly marries while there is a pre-existing marriage still in effect, then the other spouse has grounds for a fault divorce. Whether one should reasonably know that there was a dissolution of the first marriage is an issue all unto itself.
In this age of internet and easy connections to information and others, what may be reasonable to have not known in years prior may not be so reasonable now.
Annulment is not necessarily available
Notably, ending a marriage based on fault, such as bigamy, may not provide an equal opportunity to choose an annulment to the marriage. For an annulment to occur, there must be other factors that exist that point to a valid marriage that is voidable, more so than an invalid marriage that cannot exist due to a pre-existing marriage. Annulments may result from some marriages, including the following:
- Intoxication at time of marriage
- Lack of consent to marriage
- Close blood relationship of spouses
- Unknown impotency
- Insanity or significant cognitive deficiencies when married
When it comes to marrying for a second time, getting confirmation before re-marriage of an actual divorce or death of the prior spouse may be the better-traveled path.