Self-Help Divorce: You Can Only Marry one Person at a time in Minnesota Too

Self-Help Divorce Mistake #1: Using a Friend

Alan O’Neill, 42, a resident of Washington State, enlisted a friend to help him with a self-help divorce from his first wife.  Afterwards, Mr. O’Neill started another relationship and eventually decided to try his hand at marriage again. 

He happily married a second time and all was well.  The happy couple, as many do today, put pictures of the ceremony on Facebook to share with others.

One person, however, definitely did not “like” the joyous event:  Mr. O’Neill’s first wife, who he had never divorced.

It turns out Mr. O’Neill’s friend never filed the necessary legal paperwork to complete the first divorce proceeding.

Understandably Mr. O’Neill’s first wife brought the situation to the attention of the authorities.  Mr. O’Neill was charged in March of this year with attempted bigamy.  He pled guilty a few days ago.

Self-Help Divorce: The Potential Penalties

So, Mr. O’Neill had to endure months of public embarrassment and ridicule.  In addition, his second marriage was annulled.  This means the marriage was effectively cancelled, as if it never existed.

In addition, he has to go through the entire divorce proceeding from scratch again.  After finishing that, he will then have to marry his second wife again to have it legally valid.

Bigamy is Illegal in Minnesota Too: Take Away Messages

There are a few lessons here: First, there are a lot of procedures involved with a divorce.  It’s critical to do them correctly both to get the proper legal result and to advocate for your rights. 

Second, a family law attorney is a fantastic resource to help walk you through all of the potential pitfalls involved in the long and complex divorce process.

Third and finally, don’t trust a friend or neighbor to do it for you, unless they happen to be a lawyer.  If you ignore this advice and go with a friend’s help anyway, at the very least double-check everything they do.


All of the materials available in this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between Majeski Law, LLC and anyone who uses it.


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Hello. I'm Matt Majeski. I'm a divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In 2009, I founded Majeski Law, LLC. Equipped with a degree in Law & Psychology, I decided to focus my law practice solely on divorce and family law matters. Although I serve individuals throughout the state of Minnesota, most of my clients live in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Chisago county. I've been Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Ramsey County Bar Association since 2014. In addition, I've been an active member of the Minnesota State, Ramsey County, and Washington County Bar Association since 2009, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts since 2012. Besides volunteering at the Washington County Legal Advice Clinic, through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) I've also been able to serve a number of individuals pro bono in several civil matters. When I'm not practicing law, my two daughters keep me busy running around, stepping on Legos, and playing computer games. In addition, those who know me on a personal level, know I have a deep appreciation for Star Wars and Tootsie-Rolls, and that I humor my wife's love for, The Packers.