Bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another. It is a legal ground to nullify a marriage. A nullified marriage means the marriage is declared null and void, which means the marriage is treated as if it never existed.
According to section 20(1) of the Matrimonial Clause Ordinance (MCO), Cap. 179 , when at the time of marriage either party has already been lawfully married, the said marriage is void. For example, if a person marries a second time without first completing the formal steps of divorce for his/her first marriage, then his/her second marriage is nullified.
Section 18(1) of the MCO provides for the remarriage of divorced persons:
“Where a decree of divorce has been made absolute and either-
- there is no right of appeal against the decree absolute; or
- the time for appealing against the decree absolute has expired without an appeal having been brought; or
- an appeal against the decree absolute has been dismissed;
either party to the former marriage may marry again.”
If someone got married in Mainland China or overseas and is undergoing a divorce process, as long as the divorce process is not completed and the status of that person is not “single”, then the said person cannot get married again in Hong Kong, as the marriage would be void under section 20(1)(c) of the MCO.
Vice versa, if the party originally got married in Hong Kong but is getting married again in the Mainland or overseas, albeit undergoing divorce proceedings at the time the party gets married (assuming the proceedings are not yet completed), the said party commits bigamy, under section 45 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance ( Cap. 212 ).
According to section 45 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance ( Cap. 212 ), any person who, being married, marries any other person during the life of the former husband or wife shall be guilty of an offence triable upon indictment, and shall be liable to imprisonment for seven years.