Going through a divorce is one of the most emotionally draining experiences ever. But it’s not uncommon to meet someone new while that process is still in progress. So if you do, can you get married while going through a divorce?
As a general rule, in the United States, it is not legal to marry one person while still legally married to another. The new marriage must wait until the divorce from the previous spouse is finalized. That being said, it is legal to get engaged to someone while waiting for the divorce to be settled.
A marriage based on love devolves into discussions about legal rights, marital property, separate property, property division, court order, and similar legal jargon.
In this article, we’ll explore whether you can marry someone who is not divorced and what happens if you get married while you’re already married.
We will also look at what it is called when you get married when you’re already married and whether it’s okay to get engaged to someone else while you’re still legally married.
We will also look at other vital themes around whether you can get married while going through a divorce.
Let’s get into it.
Can I marry someone who is not divorced?
No, you cannot marry someone who is not divorced. That would constitute bigamy since, in point of fact, your new spouse would, in effect, be married to two people at the same time! Your new marriage would be illegal and void.
Of course, we’re only talking about a marriage done in conjunction with the government.
If you want to have a civil ceremony, rings, and some sort of contractual agreement, the government has no say in that.
Before you can marry anyone, they must be of legal age, and if they’ve been married before, they must have finalized their divorce, or if their spouse died, they must have the certificate of death. The legal dissolution of marriage that was in existence is a precondition for contracting a new one.
In effect, you would be violating the law if you know a person hasn’t finalized their divorce but went ahead and married them. The law sees their first marriage as still valid.
In other words, you can only be married to one person. That’s what the law allows and recognizes. It’s a serious offense to go ahead and marry a person you know is still married or has not finalized their divorce.
Legally, they are still contractually bound to their previous marriage!
You’ll likely have to pay fines and may serve jail time if you knew this yet went ahead and married them.
What if the person you’re thinking of marrying was in a common-law marriage?
A common-law marriage refers to a situation where for all practical purposes, a couple cohabits and does virtually all that folks who are legally married do but are not officially married.
Such couples usually dispense with a marriage ceremony and the legal requirements. They present themselves as a married couple to the world. But they do not have a marriage license or certificate.
Now, it depends on the laws of the state in which you reside. In some states, common-law marriages are not valid.
But they are valid in some states. So, if you reside in the latter, you’ll be guilty of bigamy if you were to go ahead and marry a person who has had a common-law marriage.
As you know, in the United States, states have their own laws.
But there is no state where bigamous marriages are legal. What if someone has already made this grave mistake?
Do they need to get a court-ordered annulment?
Not really. The marriage is regarded as invalid. However, it’s best to find out the relevant laws in the state you reside in. You might also want to find out what the law says about same-sex couples who are in civil unions.
What happens if you get married while already married?
If you get married while already married to another, you will face the wrath of the law.
Depending on the state you reside in, you could be required to pay fines, serve jail time, and may even have your license revoked if you’re in medical practice. And you may become ineligible for public office.
This is because you’re committing bigamy, which is illegal. In most states, the second marriage will be regarded as null and void. But that does not mean that you’ll be free from the aforementioned consequences.
The spouse that discovered the crime may have a judge annul the marriage and proceed to declare charges against the bigamist.
Bigamy is regarded as a class C felony; the implication is that if you’re caught, you could pay a fine of up to $100,000 or spend up to 40 years in prison. Of course, it depends on the laws of the state where you reside.
In California, for example, the second spouse can also be charged if they know the person is already married. But, like most things, it depends.
In some cases, if it can be proven that the first spouse’s whereabouts have been unknown for a long time and that it is reasonable to assume that they have died or that the party representing your spouse did not file the relevant paperwork, the law could be lenient.
In some states, the children born in bigamous marriages are considered legitimate, provided they were born or conceived before the annulment of the second marriage. That’s considered null and void before the law.
So, there are implications relating to child custody, child support, and inheritance.
— Houston Divorce Blog (@htowndivorce) December 10, 2018
What is it called when you get married when you’re already married?
It is called bigamy when you get married to another person when you’re already married. In effect, you are married to two different people at the same time as part of two different contracts.
Ideally, before one can get married, the law requires that the first marriage has been dissolved through death, annulment, or divorce. It is considered a criminal offense that could lead to incarceration in most states.
Because it is against the law, bigamous marriages are null and void.
Trust me, you don’t want to get married to another person while you’re already married.
But you might be interested in getting your ex back. In fact, a considerable chunk of folks who have entered into a separation agreement or have had the final hearing of their divorce proceedings and have parted ways often reunite and remarry.
Can you actually reconcile after you get divorced?
In this recent article, I get into how to win your ex back after getting a divorce. It doesn’t matter whether you had an uncontested divorce or fault divorce. I shared what percentage of divorced couples get back together and shared 6 reasons why divorcees remarry each other.
I get into whether your ex-wife can fall in love with you again and how to know if your ex-wife wants you back.
I shared how to know if she’s happy without you and how to get her back from another man. I shared some signs that show it’s too late to win her back and how long to wait if she’s in limerence.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Is it illegal to get engaged while still married?
No, it is not illegal to get engaged while you’re still married. This is because an engagement is actually not legally binding. And you’re not required to obtain a license before you get engaged.
That said, it’s probably a good idea not to announce the wedding date until your divorce process has been finalized.
While your new romantic partner may like the idea that the world now knows they’re walking down the aisle soon, it might make your former spouse (that’s after you or they have initiated divorce proceedings) angry, and they could become stricter with their demands.
Issues such as spousal support, child custody, and child support could become unnecessarily thorny.
Even if your former spouse is understanding, divorce proceedings often take a long time, and it’s not ideal to put a strain on your new partner by keeping them in suspense for long.
You can have a relationship, but ideally, you want to get engaged when you’re really free. If what you have for the new person is solid, both of you will wait.
— 🍂🍁 Casey Wagner 👻🎃 (@The_Quiet_Man22) September 30, 2021
When you apply for a marriage license, do they check to see if you are already married?
No, they do not check. A marriage license is actually given before the marriage is contracted. It is, in effect, a legal application to get married. You can apply for it once you’re about to get married.
There’s a distinction between a marriage license and a marriage certificate. You obtain the former before you get married, while you’re issued the latter after you’ve been formally married.
You get the license before the marriage, fill it out, have your ceremony, and have it signed by the officiant. It’s after it’s been submitted that you receive a certified copy: the certificate.
One of the things that confound most people is why some folks who have been married for decades still end up going their separate ways. You’d think that they would have ironed out all the kinks by now, right?
Even more important is how to cope with such divorce.
This is what I explored in a recent article I published. It’s titled: How to survive divorce after 30 years of marriage.
In it, I looked at why marriages fail after 30 years and how common is divorce after 30 years of marriage. I shared 5 tell-tale signs, such as domestic violence, that show that your marriage may be over.
I get into who suffers the most when a gray marriage has ended: men or women. And I revealed whether a divorced woman could get her ex-husband’s social security.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Can someone check if you’re married?
Yes, someone can check if you’re married. But it depends on the state. In a lot of states, marriage records are public records and can be accessed for a small fee.
However, there are states where such records are not available in the public domain.
In states where the records are available, the person who wants to check will have to visit the courthouse in the county where the marriage must have been held. There, they would ask to see the record (for free or for a fee) and may even be able to see if you have applied for a marriage license.
States differ on what records can be accessed in the public domain. So they would have done their homework. They would also need to know your middle name in case you have a relatively common first name and surname.
And while they are there, they may also be able to access records relating to previous divorces you have had. In fact, this is one of the records they might be keen to also see. After all, just because there’s a marriage record does not necessarily imply that the marriage is still in existence.
But apart from the option of going to the courthouse, there are also websites that collate these records and make them available to the public for a fee.
— New York Post (@nypost) April 3, 2018
How long after a divorce can you remarry? (And does it vary by state?)
You can get married immediately after divorce proceedings have been finalized in most states. However, while the number of states with a required waiting period is fewer than in previous decades, there are still some states with a waiting period.
So you need to be aware of what the law says where you reside. Here are the states that have a waiting period as of the time of this writing. However, laws can change at any time, so always consult with an attorney or Justice of the Peace where you live.
6-Month Waiting Period
90-Days Waiting Period
- Rhode Island
60-Days Waiting Period
30-Days Waiting Period
- Washington D.C.
But even where there is no waiting period required by the law, it’s best not to rush to remarry after your divorce for a couple of important reasons.
Even after you’ve received your divorce decree and you’re convinced you have healed and can put the past behind you, what about your children?
Children often contend with confusing and sad emotions when their parents’ divorce, and they hope that the parents will come back together. Of course, you know that won’t happen.
It’s really helpful to take the time to explain to the kids why mum and dad have to go their separate ways.
And give them sufficient time to process that fact. It might be too much for some children if, soon after the legal separation or divorce, they have to deal with new potential parents!
You may also want to talk to a family law attorney or divorce lawyer about some issues you never thought were important before you got married the first time.
You may want to seek legal advice about whether there’s good reason to have a prenuptial agreement, for example. How are the partners’ bank accounts affected? Or seek clarity about what constitutes community property.
After meetings with your lawyer, you may want to discuss finance, real estate, and other serious issues with your new spouse to be, so that you don’t repeat mistakes you made in the past.
Some experts even advise that you should go to therapy after the demise of a marriage. As you know, our relationships and marriages are often impacted by some of the relationships and experiences we had when we were children.
On our own, we may not be able to unravel all the threads and lessons we need to learn from to heal and increase the odds that our new marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships will thrive.
To give new relationships the best chance of success, how long is ideal to wait before dating after a divorce?
To help you, in this recent article, I explored the theme further. I explained why there’s no timer on how long to stay single after a breakup and why you should take the time to be single after a breakup.
I also get into how to tell when you’re ready for a new relationship and when you don’t want your ex back.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
In the article, we explored whether you could marry someone who is not divorced and what happens if you get married while you’re already married.
You can’t marry someone who’s not divorced. If you do, you’ll face the wrath of the law: huge fines and incarceration.
We also looked at what it is called when you get married when you’re already married and whether it’s okay to get engaged to someone else while you’re still legally married. Then, we found out if someone could check whether you’re married.
It’s called bigamy when you marry someone else while you’re still married. Getting engaged to another is not legally binding. So, you can get engaged while you’re married. But I don’t know why you’ll want to do that.
Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering how long after a divorce can you remarry and if the waiting period varies by state. In most states, there is no required waiting period.
But it’s smart to know what the law says where you reside.