To say that polygamy and bigamy are common would not be accurate. They do, however, occur on a regular basis. Some are confused about the difference in these two non-traditional unions so read below to learn how they are different and what might happen when children are concerned.
How They Differ
The common thread with these two forms of marriage is that they are both illegal. Even in Utah, a state where a separate sect of the Mormon church resides, polygamy is not recognized by either the law or the church. Bigamy is not usually associated with any religious sect but is when someone marries another without being legally divorced from the first spouse. A bigamous or polygamist marriage is not a marriage at all under the eyes of the law. Polygamists often marry without an official marriage certificate and use clergy or others to perform the ceremony.
What the Law Says
In many cases, bigamists are charged with a misdemeanor once a previous marriage comes to light. Usually, the innocent spouse has no knowledge of the previous marriage and is not charged. Misdemeanors are considered relatively minor in relation to a felony and while jail time is possible, it will probably not be for more than one year.
As far as polygamy goes, the law tends to only get involved in cases where someone is being forced to engage in sexual relations against their will. Sexual abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, and sex slavery are sometimes connected to incidents of polygamy. These are all felon charges and can incur serious punishments. In most cases, polygamy is associated with religions like the Mormons, Islam, and more. Often, however, connections with polygamy are disavowed by religious affiliation.
When Minor-Aged Children Are Involved
Interestingly enough, it is this issue that can bring a non-traditional union like the above to the forefront. The family court system takes the well-being of children very seriously and you don't necessarily have to be married to need child support. A parent has the right to ask for child support when the couple is no longer together, legal union or not. A parent who protests with allegations of being still married may have to show that they are, in fact, still residing under the same roof or child support will be ordered for the parent who has the highest income.
When minor-aged and innocent children enter the picture, things can get more complex and serious. If you have been involved in a union like the above, especially if children are involved, speak to a family lawyer about your case today. You have rights and protections, but you must take action.