All jurisdictions have laws prohibiting bigamy in Oklahoma. Oklahoma law defines bigamy as marrying a person while still married to another living person. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 881.) This is not a common crime, but it does occur. Bigamy is a felony offense.
Punishment for Bigamy in Oklahoma
There are exceptions to the crime.
Bigamy does not extend to:
- a situation in which a spouse has been absent for five successive years without knowing if that spouse is alive, nor
- a spouse who is outside of the United States for a period of five years and has absented themselves from his/her husband or wife, nor
- a person by reason of any former marriage which has been pronounced void, annulled, or dissolved, nor
- a person by reason of any former marriage with a husband or wife who has been sentenced to imprisonment for life.
(See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 882.)
Bigamy is punishable by up to five years in prison. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 883.)
Knowingly marrying a bigamist is also a felony. It is punishable by up to five years in prison or up to one year in the county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 884.)
Proof at Trial
When a case of bigamy goes to trial, proof of the bigamy can be made by marriage certificate or other recorded evidence.
If the second marriage occurred out of state, then proof of that fact accompanied by proof of subsequent cohabitation in Oklahoma is sufficient evidence. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 22 § 746.)
Common Bigamy Scenarios
Is it possible to unknowingly commit bigamy in Oklahoma? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
Bigamy can happen if the first marriage amounted to a common law marriage. A common law marriage is one in which there is no formal marriage certificate or wedding, but the couple is deemed married within the eyes of the law.
Common law marriages often arise when cohabiting couples stay together for years and hold themselves out as a “married” couple. Over the years, a number of situations can arise that enmesh a couple’s finances, lives, and property — hence, the law treats the couple as “married.”
Concerns about common law marriages in Oklahoma most often arise when one party wants to remarry or when a partner dies. Unless a formal divorce has been obtained, a partner seeking to remarry after a common law marriage may be guilty of bigamy if that party remarries.
Courts look to a number of factors to determine if a common law marriage exists. Most of these factors relate to the couple’s intent and how they have held themselves out to the community over time. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Legal capacity to be married. This relates primarily to age.
- An agreement to be married.
- An intent that the relationship to be permanent.
- Living together as domestic partners.
- Holding themselves out to the community as married.
Courts look to the understanding and agreements made by the couple in determining the presence or absence of a common law marriage.
The other common way that bigamy can occur without knowing it, is in an early remarriage after a divorce. In Oklahoma, you may not remarry for a period of six months after the granting of a divorce decree unless the former spouse is deceased. Remarrying before that time is legally bigamy. You may remarry your old spouse within that time period without committing bigamy, however. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 123.)
Do not risk incarceration. If you have committed bigamy in Oklahoma, whatever the circumstances, you need the help of an experienced criminal attorney to preserve your freedom.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Criminal Law Attorney
The Wirth Law Office is here to help when you need it most. We offer a free consultation with an experienced Tulsa criminal law attorney to help you defend your legal rights.
Call 918-879-1681 for a free consultation or submit a question through this website.