Re marring abroad without having a divorce in the us

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Re marring abroad without having a divorce in the us

My boyfriend is a US citizen and I am a dual citizen US-SPAIN. He is married in
the State of North Carolina but due to difficulties in the divorce process he is not
pursuing to divorce anymore. We are planning on moving to Spain, where we
would like to reside, and in order for him to have a residence permit we would
need to marry, the question is the following, If we got married in Spain will he be
incurring in bigamy in the US since he is still married? What would those
consequences be?

Asked on May 20, 2019 under Family Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it would be bigamy in the United States, because the U.S. recognizes all marriages wherever performed. As a practical matter, nothing would happen to him except that the second "marriage" (to you) would not be valid or recognized in the U.S. and it's *possible* that were he to return to the state in which he'd lived and been married, and his wife (the woman he first married, who will in U.S. law's eyes remain his wife until and unless divorced) bring the matter to a prosecutor, that the prosecutor might charge him with bigamy--unlikely, but possible. For example, in CO, he could theoretically face 12 to 18 months in jail and a fine of thousands of dollars.
Note however that at least under U.S. law, if he passes away, his wife, not you (again, in U.S. law, she will be his only legal wife) will inherit; if he is incapacitated, his wife, not you, will be able to make medical decisions; you would not be eligible for couples or family health care with him--in short, there are many situations where legal marital status matters. 
We cannot offer an opinion about Spanish law on the topic, but suggest you look into them.
The divorce process is not actually that difficult: why is he not pursuing it? An attorney could make this happen for him, so he's better off hiring a laywer and getting divorced then commiting bigamy. And you should ask yourself why he will not do this.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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