Divorce Attorney Cape Town

Facebook ‘Friend’ Offer Exposes Man’s Other Wife


Facebook’s automatic function to connect its users through “friends” they might know recently led two women in the United States to find out they were in fact married to one and the same man, at the same time.

This led to the man being charged with bigamy.

The man married a woman in 2001, separated in 2009, then changed his name and remarried without divorcing his first wife. The first wife first noticed this to her shock when Facebook suggested the friendship connection to wife number 2 under the “People You May Know” feature.

Neither the man nor his first wife had filed for divorce. The man allegedly told wife No. 1 not to tell anybody about his dual marriages and that he would fix it. But wife No. 1 alerted the authorities.

Facebook over the years has played a role in both creating relationships and destroying them. It’s just the latest vessel by which people can stray if they want to.

Bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another. Bigamy is a criminal offense in most western countries, and when it occurs in this context often neither the first nor second spouse is aware of the other. The legal status of the parties is as if they never concluded a marriage, the second marriage is thus void and has no legal consequences and its effect is absolute. It is also unnecessary to obtain a court order, although this may be done for sake of legal certainty.

A void marriage, like in the case where Bigamy was committed means that legally no marriage has come into existence.

Save for in a case of Bigamy a marriage will also be void where the parties have not adhered to some formal or material requirements. Examples of formal requirements that will render a marriage null and void include the following:

  • The marriage was not conducted by a competent marriage officer
  • No witnesses were present at the marriage ceremony
  • A boy under 18 years or a girl under 15 years of age married and did not obtain the consent of the Minister of Home Affairs
  • The parties are related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship
  • One or both of the parties were mentally incapable when they concluded the marriage

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