QLD Has My Friend Committed Bigamy under Australian Law?

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DGP

Member
10 March 2019
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My friend, an Australian citizen, agreed to a Muslim name change and entered into a Muslim religious service to marry a man in Bangladesh.

They returned to Australia but separated a year or so after returning.

My friend then met another man, they decided to marry and did so in Fiji, then returned to Australia. At the time my friend did not disclose the previous 'marriage' to her new husband as she believed it was no more than a Muslim religious ceremony effective only in Bangladesh.

As a result of my research, it now seems that Bangladesh marriage is recognised in Australia. The marriage certificate was issued by the Office of the Muslim Marriage Registrar and Kazi in that country, fairly obviously the official department for registering particulars of marriages.

If that marriage is legally binding and is recognised in Australia can my friend now seek a divorce here, in Australia?

Secondly, if her first marriage is valid then she may have committed Bigamy. If she has, was the act of Bigamy committed in Fiji, or Australia and what penalties would apply if/when she was to make a voluntary disclosure?
 

Tremaine

Well-Known Member
5 February 2019
183
31
514
So your friend didn't divorce her first husband before marrying her second?

If that's the case, the second marriage would be deemed invalid by the Court (by way of decree of nullity, I believe) as in Australia, a person cannot be legally married to more than one person at a time.

Your friend can seek a divorce from her first husband in Australia if she or her former spouse:
  • regard Australia as their home and intend to live in Australia indefinitely, or
  • is an Australian citizen by birth, descent or by grant of Australian citizenship, or
  • ordinarily lives in Australia and has done so for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce.
As to the question of bigamy, the legislation indicates a penalty of five years' imprisonment, but it's unclear if that's a standard or a maximum. Might be best to seek legal advice on that front.
 

DGP

Member
10 March 2019
2
0
1
So your friend didn't divorce her first husband before marrying her second?

If that's the case, the second marriage would be deemed invalid by the Court (by way of decree of nullity, I believe) as in Australia, a person cannot be legally married to more than one person at a time.

Your friend can seek a divorce from her first husband in Australia if she or her former spouse:
  • regard Australia as their home and intend to live in Australia indefinitely, or
  • is an Australian citizen by birth, descent or by grant of Australian citizenship, or
  • ordinarily lives in Australia and has done so for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce.
As to the question of bigamy, the legislation indicates a penalty of five years' imprisonment, but it's unclear if that's a standard or a maximum. Might be best to seek legal advice on that front.

Which country's law relating to bigamy has been broken? The second marriage occurred in Fiji but my friend is an Australian citizen who ordinarily resides here.
 

Tremaine

Well-Known Member
5 February 2019
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31
514
If the second marriage occurred in Fiji, then I'm fairly sure the act of bigamy would have occurred in Fiji, meaning it would fall under Fijian jurisdiction.
 

Scruff

Well-Known Member
25 July 2018
818
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2,389
NSW
I'm certainly no expert, but I agree that any issue regarding bigamy would fall under Fiji jurisdiction.

In Fiji, bigamy is a felony under s185 of the Fiji Penal Code. According to the wording of that section, it also appears that the Fiji marriage is void if the first marriage is recognised under Fiji law.

So everything comes down to which countries recognise which marriages. I think Australia would recognise both, therefore it comes down to whether or not the first marriage is recognised in Fiji.

So for the first marriage, she needs to get divorced or have it nullified if it is recognised in either Fiji or Australia, which is more likely than not.

If the first marriage is recognised in Fiji, then the second marriage is void and she can remarry once the first marriage is nullified.

If the first marriage is not recognised in Fiji, then the Fiji marriage would be legal and she wouldn't need to remarry if that marriage is recognised in Australia. The problem is that if the first marriage is recognised in Australia, the second might not be - I'm unclear on that.

Your friend will probably need to engage a lawyer to look into this because there are laws from 3 different countries that need to be looked at, as well as how those laws interact on an international level. The bad news is I think that figuring this all out will take a fair bit of research and it will therefore be very expensive.

Ref: Fiji Penal Code Penal Code [Cap 17]