In 2015, Adam John Moore, a man in his thirties from Exeter, plead guilty to bigamy. With such a headline, the story soon spread to a number of national newspapers. Unusual, but not unheard of, one may think. However, this was not a case of deliberate deception, but a case of ignorance.
Moore had married Lyndsey Heywood in December 2008, but their short-lived marriage broke down. Upon applying for a divorce, Heywood began to look into Moore’s previous divorce proceedings and discovered, to her dismay, that he was technically still married to his first wife. While decree nisi had been pronounced in his previous divorce proceedings, decree absolute had not.
Decree nisi – nisi being the Latin word for ‘if’ or ‘unless’ – is the notice that states that a marriage may be dissolved. It is provisional, and it provides that after six weeks and a day from the point of its pronouncement, a decree absolute may be applied for unless any further evidence is brought to light to prevent that happening during that period. A marriage is not dissolved until decree absolute is granted.
While Moore’s actions were not malicious as such, they were certainly careless. Not having a sufficient level of knowledge of the divorce process did not save him from being hauled before the local magistrates, or of deceiving both his wives, however inadvertently. Bigamy is a rare event in the UK but it is still punishable by a custodial sentence.
It is a strong reason for getting the best legal advice possible when going through a divorce, so that you can be absolutely sure that everything is being conducted in your best interests; not least getting all your paperwork done correctly.