Is polygamy legal in the UK?

Introduction: Is polygamy legal in the UK?. Polygamy, the practice of having multiple spouses simultaneously, is illegal in the United Kingdom. The UK is a tolerant society that respects the customs of others.

So, if three or more people legally marry in a valid polygamous marriage abroad, their marriage will be recognized as legal in the UK. (It does not permit someone living in the UK to marry abroad in a polygamous marriage; a UK association would prevent it from being legal.)

What if a UK couple is already married, and then (one of them) contracts a wedding ceremony with a third person? If they get divorced first, of course, it is fine. The marriage ceremony will be solemn and illegal if they are not divorced.

The UK’s legal framework explicitly prohibits polygamous marriages, considering them invalid and unenforceable. The prohibition of polygamy in the UK is rooted in historical, cultural, and legal factors, as well as a commitment to gender equality, human rights, and social cohesion.

Is polygamy legal in the UK?
Is polygamy legal in the UK? 2

Is polygamy legal in the UK?

The UK’s primary legal foundation for prohibiting polygamy can be traced back to the Marriage Act 1836. This legislation defines marriage as a voluntary union between one man and one woman, effectively excluding polygamous unions.

The Act lays the groundwork for the UK’s longstanding practice of recognizing monogamous marriages, which has been upheld in subsequent legal developments.

The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973, which governs wedding and divorce law in England and Wales, further reinforces the UK’s stance against polygamy. This Act acknowledges only monogamous marriages and provides legal safeguards and protections for spouses within such unions.

While polygamous marriages are not legally recognized in the UK, this does not mean that individuals who enter such marriages abroad have no legal consequences or considerations.

In cases where individuals enter into polygamous marriages abroad and seek legal recognition or benefits in the UK, the legal system addresses issues surrounding finances, property, and child custody through alternative legal mechanisms.

Although the UK does not recognize polygamous marriage, the courts may still address the implications of such marriages within the context of family and civil law. These cases can be complex as they entangle, navigating the intersection of legal systems and cultural norms.

The prohibition of polygamy in the UK is motivated by several factors, including the principles of gender equality and women’s rights. Polygamous marriages often perpetuate unequal power dynamics within relationships, potentially leaving women and children vulnerable to economic and emotional hardships.

The UK’s legal framework aims to protect all individuals’ rights within marriage and prevent practices that may lead to discrimination or subordination based on gender.

Furthermore, the multicultural nature of the UK’s society adds another coating of complexity to the conversation about polygamy. The UK is home to diverse cultural and religious communities, each with its own beliefs and practices related to marriage. While respecting cultural and religious diversity is important, it must be balanced with the principles of equal rights and protection under the law.

The tension between recognizing cultural diversity and upholding legal standards is not unique to the UK. Many countries grapple with similar challenges, seeking to strike a balance between cultural sensitivity and ensuring the welfare of all individuals, particularly those who might be vulnerable within certain cultural or religious practices.

In addressing these complexities, the UK’s legal system is tasked with safeguarding individual freedom and human rights while ensuring that practices that might infringe on those rights are not endorsed or legitimized. This approach reflects the UK’s commitment to promoting social cohesion, equal treatment, and the well-being of all citizens.

It’s important to note that legal perspectives on polygamy can vary among the different countries that make up the United Kingdom. For instance, Scotland, with its distinct legal system, has taken a somewhat different approach to certain aspects of polygamy. However, the overarching principle of recognizing only monogamous marriages remains consistent throughout the UK.

Legal Identity

To be recognized as legally valid, all marriages in the UK must be monogamous and comply with the requirements of the relevant legislation.

For a polygamous wedding to be valid in the UK, the parties must be domiciled in a country where polygamy is allowed and have been married in a country that permits polygamy.

In the UK, there is some anecdotal evidence of people entering into polygamous marriages through religious ceremonies that are not registered by the state and not recognized under UK law.

The parties to these relationships do not have the same rights as legally married couples, such as access to financial remedies upon divorce or automatic inheritance rights upon the death of one of the parties. There have been calls for all marriages in England and Wales to be registered to tackle the problem – registering a polygamous marriage would not be possible.

In 2022, the Law Commission recommended comprehensive reforms to marriage law in England and Wales. The revised system will be based on the regulation of the officer in charge of the event.

Among other things, the Law Commission recommended that it would be an offence for an officer or a person intending to be an officer or to preside over a ceremony – to be dishonest with a couple in the effect of a ceremony. To commit to mislead about. It would also be an offence for an authorized officer not to reveal the couple if the ceremony would not give rise to a valid marriage.


In conclusion, polygamy is not legal in the United Kingdom. The UK’s legal framework is rooted in historical legislation that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The principles of gender equality, women’s rights, and human rights play a significant role in the UK’s prohibition of polygamous marriages.

While the UK respects cultural and religious diversity, it maintains a clear stance against practices that may perpetuate inequality or discrimination. This stance reflects the UK’s commitment to upholding equal rights, individual freedoms, and social cohesion within its multicultural society.

For plural marriages recognized in the UK, certain means-tested benefits and tax credits may be awarded to more than one spouse. Any additional amount payable to the other spouse may be less than the amount they would have claimed separately as an individual.

Also read: What is the importance of logic and critical thinking; Monogamy vs polygamy; Pros and cons of Polygamy

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