Bigamy

BIGAMOUS MARRIAGES

1.      What is a bigamous marriage?

A bigamous marriage is the state of a man or a woman having two spouses, who are living, at the same time.

 

Bigamy is the criminal offense of willfully and knowingly contracting a second marriage (or going through the form of a second marriage) while the first marriage, to the knowledge of the offender is still subsisting and undissolved. (The Law Dictionary featuring Black’s Law Dictionary)

 

2.      What are the elements of the crime of bigamy?

The elements of the crime of bigamy are:

  1. That the offender has been legally married;
  2. That the first marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code;
  3. That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and
  4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.

(People vs. Odtuhan, G.R. No. 191566, 17 July 2013)

 

3.      What is the penalty imposed by the Philippine laws on the man who contracted a bigamous marriage?

The penalty imposed upon persons who contracted a bigamous marriage is Prision Mayor or an imprisonment lasting from 6 years and 1 day to 12 years.

 

The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings. (Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines)

 

4.      I recently found out that my husband had contracted a second marriage. As his legal wife, can I charge him for the crime of bigamy?

Yes. Your husband had contracted a second marriage while his first marriage to you was still valid and subsisting. Such an act of contracting a second marriage is an act of bigamy.

 

 

5.      What is the status of the children resulting from bigamous marriages?

Children who were born of parents in a bigamous marriage are considered illegitimate.

 

6.      If the first marriage was annulled, would the second “bigamous” marriage be recognized?

If the first marriage was declared by the court as void ab initio, it would mean that there was no marriage to begin with as such declaration of nullity retroacts to the date of the first marriage. In other words, for all intents and purposes, reckoned from the date of the declaration of the first marriage as void ab initio to the date of the celebration of the first marriage, the accused was under the eyes of the law, never married. (Morigo vs. People, G.R. No. 145226, 06 February 2004)

 

In summary, it means that the first marriage which was annulled by the courts is considered as never taken place and that the husband has been single all the while when he contracted a second marriage. Such second marriage is considered as the valid legal marriage in the eyes of law and that the husband had not committed the crime of bigamy.

 

7.      If the first wife abandons her husband and could no longer be found, could our “bigamous” marriage be recognized?

No, mere disappearance of the first and legal wife would not render the bigamous marriage legal. It would still be considered illegal under the eyes of the law.

 

8.      If the second wife of the bigamous marriage had no idea that her husband had a prior and subsisting first marriage, can she use it as a defense against the crime of bigamy?

In bigamy, the second spouse could only be charge with the crime of bigamy if she had full knowledge of the previous undissolved marriage of her husband. Thus, if the second wife had no idea that her husband was previously married, she may claim such as a defense against the charge of bigamy.

 

9.      I married my current husband last month. I was previously married to another man 10 years ago but I was informed that our marriage was void. Now it has come to my attention I could be charged with bigamy, despite the first marriage being void.

Even if the Parties had believed that the first marriage was void, thus leading them to believe they were free to marry other people, such is not true. It is the courts who have the capability to decide whether or not a marriage is valid or void. Thus, even if the parties truly believed that their marriage was void, without a judicial declaration of judgment from the courts, neither party are free to marry other people.

 

“Parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for the same must be submitted to the judgment of competent courts and only when the nullity of the marriage is so declared can it be held as void, and so long as there is no such declaration, the presumption is that the marriage exists. Therefore, he who contracts a second marriage before the judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.” (Montañez v. Cipriano, G.R. No. 181089, 22 October 2012)

 

10.  My husband recently confessed that he had a prior existing marriage. As a result, I want to dissolve our bigamous marriage without incurring any criminal liability. Can I do so?

There is no need to dissolve your bigamous marriage with your husband as such marriage is already void under the eyes of the law. You can claim the defense of non-involvement meaning that you weren’t aware that he already was married to someone else and that his first marriage was still subsisting.

                          

11.  My first marriage to my first was occurred 15 years ago. Recently, I married another woman, forgetting to have my 1st marriage judicially declared as annulled. However, I noticed that the solemnizing officer who officiated over my second marriage was in fact fake. Can I now claim that my second marriage was void as a defense against any future charge of bigamy against me?

If your second marriage was considered by the courts as void, then it would lack one of the essential elements of bigamy, that the second marriage is valid. Thus, no second marriage actually took place. In short, you cannot be charged with bigamy as you are still considered married to the first wife and no subsequent marriage ever occurred.

 

12.  Until when can I charge my husband of bigamy?

The crime of bigamy has a prescription period of fifteen (15) years. This means that the offended party has 15 years within which she could charge her guilty husband of the crime of bigamy.

 

13.  When will the 15 year prescriptive period for the crime of bigamy start?

The fifteen-year prescriptive period commences to run from the day on which the crime was discovered by the offended party, the authorities or their agents.

 

This means that the counting of the 15 year prescriptive period would start from the very day that it came to your knowledge of the bigamous marriage of your husband.

 

14.  What is the penalty for bigamy?

Bigamy carries with it the afflictive penalty of prision mayor, having imprisonment duration of six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years.