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I am in a Bigamous Marriage, What are My Rights as the Second Spouse?

The usual notion of marriage consists of two major attributes. Firstly, that the marriage will last a lifetime. This is why we have the vow that only death will part the married couple. The second attribute of marriage is that it is only meant for one person. The legal definitions of marriage are also based on those two attributes. 

As we all know, there are many instances when the spouse could not deliver on this promise. Most of the time, they end up in divorce, but there are instances when they also result in bigamy.

Texas Law on Bigamy

The legal definition of bigamy is when you marry someone while you are still married to another person. In Texas, the Family Code states that adults can only enter into one marriage. Thus, any other marriages will not be recognized. The spouse from the existing marriage is considered as the legal one until the first marriage is legally dissolved. 

This means that the second spouse is not recognized by law. The existence of the first marriage voids the second. There is no way around it until they are divorced or annulled. 

It is very important for you, as the second spouse, to understand that you do not have any rights or privileges as a married individual. All of these rights belong to the spouse from the original marriage. You will not have any tax benefits, you cannot be the beneficiary of insurance or 401k plans, nor will you be considered for any life-or-death decisions. Those still belong to the first—and technically, the legal spouse.

Another detail that you must take note is that any property that your spouse will accumulate during the time of your marriage will be considered as community property for the first spouse. That means you do not get to own half of the property accumulated, and your spouse will even have to share it with the first spouse.

Next Steps for the Second Spouse

What should you do then? Considering all the disadvantages, you might want to leave the relationship. You can just walk away, without any divorce proceeding or annulment procedure since there was no marriage in the first place. The law will not provide any protection for you even if you entered the marriage inadvertently. 

You may seek a declaration from the family court that the marriage is null and void, just for your protection in case you have entered any transaction under the premise that you are married. 

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at

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