What is bigamy?
Bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with a person while still being married to another.
Is bigamy illegal in Australia?
The short answer is, yes. The Crimes Act 1900 states:
“Whosoever, being married, marries another person during the life of the former spouse (including husband or wife), shall be liable to imprisonment for seven years”.
Bigamy is not only illegal in New South Wales, but the whole of Australia. The Marriage Act 1961 is Australia wide legislation and states:
“A person who is married shall not go through a form or ceremony of marriage with any person.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.”
However, you will not be guilty of bigamy if your original spouse at the time of your second marriage has been legally missing for 7 years and presumed dead or if you truly believed that your original spouse was dead.
How does the court find out about bigamy?
In a number of cases where the offence of bigamy has occurred, the offender will lie on their subsequent marriage certificate stating that they have never been married. Accordingly, the offence may go undiscovered.
A number of cases that have been discovered in Australia relate to Family Law.
Family law case study
In the case of Amarnath & Kandar  FamCA 1138 before the Family Court of Australia, the wife was the party who started the case against her then husband.
During the proceedings it was discovered that the wife had previously married another man and was not divorced. In her subsequent marriage certificate, she had stated that she had “not previously married”.
The Judge had to decide whether or not they would refer the wife to the Attorney General for prosecution. The Judge decided that it was their duty to do so as the wife’s actions were in clear breach of the Marriage Act 1961.
Police case study
An interesting case that was discovered after a report to Police is that of Mr. Alec McIvor Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson was a former Catholic Priest and marriage celebrant who was discovered to not only have married while being legally married to another, but that this was done twice.
Mr. Stevenson was originally from New Zealand and subsequently moved to Australia, leaving his wife and 3 children in New Zealand, without divorcing his first wife. Mr. Stevenson then married one Australian woman, whom he subsequently divorced before marrying another.
The defense of ‘honest and reasonable mistake’ was used by Mr. Stevenson to avoid being found guilty. This, however, failed due to his training as a priest and having attended a marriage course.
Further to this, Mr. Stevenson’s defence failed as neither Australian wife knew about the New Zealand family, indicating Mr. Stevenson’s guilty mind.
Mr. Stevenson was reported to police by his second wife and received a 6 month suspended sentence and good behaviour bond for his offences.