Polygamy is the marriage to more than one person at a time, whether legally or spiritually, and it is currently illegal in all 50 states. The Arizona Constitution prohibits polygamous legal marriages, therefore making such marriages void (having no legal or binding effect). Let’s look at the relationship between Ryan, Amy and Sara to see how they are effected. (Ryan, Amy and Sara are fictitious characters for the purposes of this article, but their situation is not as rare as it may seem and these are some of the questions we have been asked here in Arizona and fall under Family Law.)
When Ryan and Amy were young they decided to get married. Things became difficult and after a couple of years they went their separate ways, intending to get a divorce, but they never actually did. They figured their marriage was so short, it didn’t really matter if they got a formal divorce. Ryan later married Sara. Ryan and Sara were married for 20 years and now they want to get a divorce too. Given the law against polygamy, where does that leave everyone? Are Ryan and Amy divorced because their marriage was abandoned over 20 years ago? Does the marriage between Ryan and Sara violate any laws? What happens to all of the joint property that Ryan and Sara acquired over 20 years? Is Amy entitled to that property as well? Are Ryan and Amy responsible for each other’s debts?
Ryan and Amy’s marriage will not dissolve on its own (despite the marriage having only been a couple years long), so their marriage was, and is still, intact. The subsequent marriage between Ryan and Sara is likely void because Ryan was married to Amy when he married Sara, therefore being married to more than one person at a time.