Polygamy: A Basis for Annulment

Rose McDermott at the Wall Street Journal reports that cases of polygamy are becoming more common in Western countries: Polygamy-or more specifically polygyny, the marriage of one man to more than one woman-has been widespread in human history. And it is becoming increasingly common, particularly in Muslim enclaves-including in Paris, London and New York. A 2006 report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights reported that approximately 180,000 people were living in polygamous households in France. For decades, France allowed entrance to polygamous immigrants from about 50 countries where the practice was legal. When the French government banned polygamy in 1993, it tried to support the decohabitation of such couples if a wife wanted to move into her own apartment with her children. In Britain, where immigration laws have banned the practice for longer, there appear to be about a thousand valid polygamous marriages, mostly among immigrants who married elsewhere, such as in Pakistan. Such families are allowed to collect social security benefits for each wife, although the government has apparently not counted how many are doing so. In the United States, where numbers are more difficult to come by, anecdotal reports indicate underground communities of polygamists in New York City, particularly among immigrant communities from West Africa. In Florida, one person cannot legally marry someone who is currently married to someone else. Further, Florida does not recognize polygamist "marriages" that occur outside of the state or country. So, does a person who has been in such a relationship, either knowingly or unwittingly (i.e., one party did not know that the other party was already married), have legal protections? The answer, simply, is yes. Rather than institute an action for divorce, a person has been engaged in a "void marriage" may file for annulment. A family law court in an annulment case may rule on virtually any issue that would be addressed in a divorce case, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and division of property. If you have questions regarding annulment and wish to speak with a Florida family lawyer, you may schedule a consultation by calling The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.

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