Most people know that they are only allowed to be married to one person at any time, and that society regards marrying another person while still married very seriously.Â

What people may not realise is that bigamy is a criminal offence, and is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to seven years!

Bigamy is punished because it is thought to represent a threat to public morality and to compromise the institution of marriage.

When a person who is already married marries another person both parties to the second marriage are committing a crime, irrespective of where in the world the second marriage took place.

The only defence to the crime of bigamy is if the first spouse has been absent for seven years, and is believed to be dead.

If both parties to the second bigamist marriage knew that it would be void due to a previous marriage, the potential term of imprisonment is only two years.

Clearly the harsher term of imprisonment of up to seven years is there in an attempt to protect an innocent party to a bigamist marriage.

The bottom line …

Bigamy is still regarded as a crime in New Zealand, and even when both parties to the new bigamous marriage knew what they were doing was a crime, they can potentially be jailed for up to two years.