Is polygamy legal in Australia? A polygamy & bigamy law guide

Is polygamy legal in Australia? And what does the law say about bigamy?

By Principal Lawyer, Elise Fordham and Paralegal, Zac Kertesz.

Both polygamy and bigamy are complex and sensitive topics that have garnered significant attention in recent years. In this blog article, we will delve deeper into the law on polygamy and bigamy in Australia.

What are bigamy and polygamy?

Firstly, ‘polygamy’ is a term that describes the practice of having multiple relationships or spouses at the same time. Likewise, ‘bigamy’ is the term used to describe the criminal offence of having multiple marriages.

Bigamy refers specifically to the act of going through a marriage ceremony whilst already married.

Is bigamy illegal in Australia?

Is polygamy legal in Australia? Photo depicting marriage of bride and groom holding flower bouquet

Yes, bigamy is illegal in Australia. It is illegal to marry someone when you are already married to someone else.

Bigamy laws in Australia

Australian law sets out the illegal act of bigamy in the Marriage Act, where it outlines two criminal offences:

  • A married individual cannot go through a marriage ceremony with someone else.
  • An individual must not go through a marriage ceremony with someone they know to already be married.

Both these offences carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

Is polygamy legal in Australia?

The Family Law Act addresses certain instances of legal polygamy:

  • Under the Family Law Act, an individual can have multiple de facto relationships simultaneously.
  • Furthermore, a de facto relationship can exist even if a person is married to someone else.
  • This legislation shows that the act of polygamy can be legal if these people do not go through marriage ceremonies with multiple people.

Lastly, the Marriage Act states that any bigamous marriage (being a marriage whilst one or both parties are already engaged in an active marriage) is legally void.

In conclusion, polygamy is a complex and sensitive issue that has generated much debate and controversy in Australia and around the world. While some individuals may view it as a matter of personal choice or religious belief, it’s important to recognise that polygamy can have significant legal and social consequences.

Need legal advice on bigamy or polygamous relationships in Australia? Call our friendly team directly, or request a call back via the form below.

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