Published: 17th November 2015
A husband has been granted the right to contest that his marriage of almost 30 years should be nullified on the grounds of bigamy.
The Essex based couple, who have four children between the ages of 19 and 27, started divorce proceedings back in 2012 after their marriage broke down, however husband Elias Bamgboye now insists that the marriage shouldn't have ever been legal because his wife Judita was already married.
In a hearing that took place last week at the Family Division of the High Court in London, Mr Justice Moor was presented the new case details and heard that Mr Bamboye believes his wife was already married to a man in the Philippines and he hopes to abandon the current divorce proceedings in an attempt to get his marriage nullified.
A decree nisi was issued by a judge in 2012, signalling the end of the marriage, however a decree absolute finalising the end of the marriage has not yet been granted. A decree nisi is a provisional court order which states the date on which a marriage will end unless there is evidence of reasons to not grant the divorce. A decree absolute is the final part of the divorce procedure which formally ends the marriage, making both parties officially divorced from each other and allowing both parties to remarry if they choose to do so.
In last week's hearing, Mr Justice Moor rescinded the decree nisi and said that Mr Bamgboye should have the right to contest the legality of his marriage on the grounds of bigamy. Although the Judge believes that Mr Bamgboye should be allowed to argue that his marriage should be nullified, he was not given the responsibility of deciding whether or not he thought Mrs Bamgboye was a bigamist and that the final decision will come from another judge sometime in the near future.
The act of bigamy is a criminal offence in the UK under section 57 of the Offences Against Person Act 1861. If a marriage takes place in the UK and one of the parties are already legally married to another person then they are committing bigamy and the marriage will be considered void. If a person is caught committing bigamy, they can be convicted of indictment and could face a jail sentence of up to 7 years. The only exceptions occur when a husband or wife has remained continually absent for seven years before the second marriage without knowledge of their partners wellbeing or whereabouts.
Whilst bigamy is recognised as a criminal offence in the UK, the rules differ from country to country, so if someone enters the UK and already has multiple wives or husbands under foreign law, they will not be considered to be committing an offence in the UK, providing that they don't enter into another marriage in the UK. If someone who is legally married in the UK decides to marry someone else overseas then the UK bigamy laws are not applicable, however they could be guilty of committing a crime under foreign marriage law, depending on which country they decide to get married in.
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