Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I am hoping you can help me. I have been legally married to my husband since 2002. We separated but never filed separation documents and we never got divorced. He recently got married to another woman in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where he owns property. Is his marriage to the other woman legal? If not, what can I do about this? We share a now adult son who lives with me in XYZ state now, but we lived in XYZ state until 2010.
I thank you for your help.
Dear First Wife,
In every state in America and in Jamaica it is against the law to be married to more than one person at a time. Being in this situation is known as bigamy, and it is a criminal offence in every state in America and in Jamaica.
There are times when people have a wedding ceremony, but it is not a legally binding ceremony. It has all the trappings of a wedding, but no legal document is signed and no licence is issued by the jurisdiction where the ceremony takes place. That is not a legal marriage.
You may be divorced and not know that you are divorced. A person can be divorced if they do not know – or say that they do not know – where their spouse is located. This is necessary because spouses can disappear, and it would cause the other spouse to be forever married if they cannot locate their husband/wife to participate in the divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, this process is also abused because spouses file documents swearing that they do not know where their husband/wife is located – when in fact they do know where they are.
You should investigate each state in America where your husband resided to see if he divorced you without your knowledge. You should also hire counsel in Jamaica to find out if your husband divorced you there and to see if he obtained a licence for his wedding in Montego Bay.
If you and your lawyers determine that your husband has indeed committed bigamy, then you can decide if you want to report him to local authorities. If your husband has committed bigamy and he filed for his second wife to migrate to America, that petition will be void. Any green card attained by the second wife will be invalidated if your husband did not secure a divorce before marrying her.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a diversity and inclusion consultant, mediator and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida. [email protected]