Something has happened down in Devon. Something that can only be described as a cautionary tale. Adam John Moore, a man in his thirties from Exeter, has pleaded guilty to bigamy, according to news reports. 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 filing for divorce, Heywood began looking into his 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’s provisional, and it provides that after six weeks and one 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.
Nor is this an isolated act of ignorance. A family member of mine, many years ago, nearly scuppered his second marriage – a marriage that is still going strong – when with little time to go before the wedding, he discovered that he had not applied for a decree absolute from his first wife, so was technically still married. He came within a hair’s breadth of being a bigamist too – perish the thought – and this man is a Cambridge graduate and prestigious medical professional.
While Moore’s actions were not malicious as such, they were certainly careless. Not having sufficient 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 rare in the UK but it can carry a custodial sentence. It’s 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.