Category Archives: Legal Stuff

Legal Status of Polygamy/Bigamy: US H-L

As noted last week, instead of trying to update this series myself, I’m linking each state to Jason Cherry’s much more thorough and cited reviews. Some changes for grammar/typos/etc. Updated 9/28/17

As usual, this is for general info purposes and is not intended a legal advice.

Hawaii:

Jason Cherry’s review

Okay, Hawaii is a damn good place to be polyamorous. It has no laws against fornication, adultery or cohabitation. There is also no specific law on the book against bigamy.

The law does specify that a marriage license will only be granted to a person who is not already married, so getting legally married to a second person would require lying when filling out a government form. I’m not sure what the technical offense would be, but my sources say it will earn you 30 days in jail. However, as long as you don’t apply for a marriage license under false pretenses and don’t get legally married to a second person, you can live together, have a religious wedding ceremony, have sex with whoever, and generally have your relationship in any configuration, living arrangement, or polyamorous snuggle any way you like.

Idaho:

Jason Cherry’s review

Bigamy is punishable by a fine of at least $2000 and/or jail time that may be up to 3 years. Adultery is also against the law, though fornication is not. Idaho used to recognize common law marriages, it now recognizes common law marriages formed before 1996 but will not recognize new ones. As far as I can find it does not have laws against cohabitation.

In Idaho you are okay to be polyam as long as you don’t get married. Throw marriage in the mix with polyam and you are in violation of the adultery statute (which like many such is almost never used) or the bigamy statute, which has flexible requirements for proving that a second marriage took place: “Upon a trial for bigamy, it is not necessary to prove either of the marriages by the register, certificate, or other record evidence thereof, but the same may be proved by such evidence as is admissible to prove a marriage in other cases” – whatever that means.

Illinois:

Jason Cherry’s review

Adultery and fornication are both illegal in Illinois, but only if they are ‘open and notorious’. Illinois does not have a specific law against cohabitation, but only because if you cohabit while married you are guilty of bigamy whether or not there was ever a second ceremony. Illinois considers bigamy to be a felony.

Given the rarity of fornication prosecutions, you are probably alright in Illinois if you live together and are not married to anyone. If you are married and are polyamorous but only live with your marriage partner you will probably be alright as long as everyone is happy with the arrangement – while they can prosecute for adultery whether or not the spouse was in agreement with the relationship it probably won’t be an issue unless you end up in divorce court. Being married with one polyam partner and living with a second polyam partner opens you up to bigamy charges. As said regarding other states, you can probably fly under the radar and be alright but if you come to official notice there may be problems.

Indiana:

Jason Cherry’s review

One of the simplest bigamy laws so far, Indiana sums it all up in two sentences. If you are married, and marry again you are guilty of bigamy. Unless your marriage was legally over due to death or divorce. Bigamy is a felony in Indiana. Indiana has no law against fornication or cohabitation, and does not recognize common law marriage. It does have laws against adultery but they only come into play if your spouse charges you with adultery.

Basically as long you don’t try to legally marry two people, and everyone is happy with the arrangement, you can do polyamory anyway you like in Indiana.

Iowa:

Jason Cherry’s review

Iowa classes bigamy as a ‘serious misdemeanor’ which comes into play if a person marries more than one person. Since Iowa recognizes common law marriage, this can get complicated. If you live together, imply and/or intend that you are married, and present yourselves as married (refer to each other as husband and wife [or husband and husband, etc] – the gold standard for ‘presenting yourselves as married’ is filing joint tax returns.) you can be in a common law marriage, which may end up with a bigamy charge if you are already married, under common law or otherwise, to someone else. Iowa has laws against adultery, but they are not currently enforced and will only be an issue in the case of a divorce. There are no laws against fornication.

So, as long as you do not present yourselves as married, and are not in danger of ending up in divorce court, you can live together, live separately, opening be in relations with and generally have lots of fun with your polyam partners. Just be very careful about not ending up in a common law marriage if you are already married.

(As a side note, the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa opens some problems regarding common law marriage, as some gay and lesbian couples may be legally married under common law without realizing it.)

Kansas:

Jason Cherry’s review

Bigamy is a felony in Kansas, which comes into play when a person marries a second person. Period, no curlicues. Common law marriage is recognized in Kansas. You cannot end up in a common law marriage if you are already married, regardless of living together, intent, presenting yourself as married or anything else, so there is no chance of unintentionally ending up in a bigamous relationship because you live with two polyam partners or someone you are not married to. Kansas also has laws against adultery that only come into play in a divorce. There are no laws against cohabitation or fornication.

Generally, polyamory will not cause problems in Kansas as long as any legally married spouse is happy with the arrangements and you aren’t trying to get two legal marriages.

Kentucky:

Jason Cherry’s review

If you marry or claim to be married to a second person in Kentucky you are guilty of bigamy. Also, if you have married someone in another state and live with someone else in Kentucky you are guilty of bigamy whether you claim to be married to the second person or not. Kentucky does have laws against adultery, but no laws against fornication or cohabitation, and it does not recognize common law marriages.

Overall, if you are not married in Kentucky you can do pretty much anything you want, relationship-wise. If you are married as long as you don’t claim to be married to two people and your legally married spouse is happy with the situation you are good. The kink in the works: if you and your spouse married outside of Kentucky, you cannot live with another polyamorous partner without violating the anti-bigamy law.

Louisiana:

Jason Cherry’s review

The act of marrying a second spouse in Louisiana, or living with a second spouse you married elsewhere, both constitute bigamy and are illegal. Adultery is illegal but can only get you in trouble if your spouse objects. Fornication and cohabitation are perfectly legal.

So, don’t get married and you are good however, if you are married and your spouse is okay with polyamory and/or is also polyamorous, you are good however, if you to get legally married twice or you spouse does not agree with poly, or changes their mind at a later date, you may have problems.

Next up: US states M

 

Legal Status of Polygamy/Bigamy: United States A-G

I delayed dealing with this series of posts because I wasn’t sure how to approach them. One thing I’ve knows is I don’t have the spoons and/or resources to do a proper job of updating and fixing all the problems (like lack of citations) with how I approached this series.

Ultimately, while it is several years out of date, Jason Cherry’s review of Non-Monogamous Families and the Law is better than anything I can manage, which is why I stopped this series in the first place! So what I’m going to do is fix the typos and stuff and link each state to Jason’s relevant post. Updated 9/28/17.

With the Canadian courts due to rule on the country’s anti-polygamy law in less than two weeks, this seems to be a topical time to review the laws regarding polygamy and their impact on polyamory. I’ll be starting with the laws in the US, and will also look at laws in a few other countries (mostly the ones I get visitors from regularly.) If you would like your country included, feel free to let me know and I’ll see what I can find. (Sorry folks, this was the plan but it ended up being beyond me.)

Polygamy/Bigamy Laws in the United States:

The only extant federal laws against polygamy dates from the late 1800s and applies only to US territories that are directly administered by the federal government. (Here’s looking at you Puerto Rico!) While I haven’t found the full text of the laws, the general idea of the first made it a felony to marry a second person while still married to your first spouse. The second closed a loop hole in the first saying that a person who was married could not legally co-habit with a member of the opposite sex other than their spouse.

Laws specific to the individual territories may add to these restrictions, but under federal law a polyamorous relationship isn’t a problem as long you don’t live with anyone other than you legal spouse, or simply don’t get married.

Every state in the US has laws against bigamy, some class it as a misdemeanor others as a felony. One website trying to get people worked up against bigamy claims with much outrage that in every state bigamy is punished less harshly that driving under the influence. Personally, I want to know what is wrong with a person who thinks having an extra marriage deserves worse punishment than endangering innocents by driving a vehicle which likely weighs over a ton while in unsound state of mind.

Many states have laws against adultery and fornication. These are generally misdemeanors and very rarely enforced, so generally not something to worry about. However if you draw legal attention and they can’t get with you anything else, they may throw these at you. Fornication laws are probably unconstitutional based on a 1965 decision of the Supreme Court regarding personal privacy, but they have never been challenged as such. Probably because it is easier to pay a small fine and ignore it than fight a years long legal battle over said fine.

In general, states don’t go looking for people who violate laws regarding cohabiting, so keep your head down and you are probably alright.

Alabama:

Jason Cherry’s Review

Alabama outlaws getting married a second time while still married to your first spouse. It is also illegal to go to another state to marry someone else while married to someone in Alabama. Alabama also has laws against co-habitation.

In general, Alabama laws say you cannot live with someone you are not married to and cannot be married to more than one person. There may also be laws against adultery and fornication.

In Alabama if you wish to be polyamorous you are best off living on your own and not getting married. Than you only need to worry about the fornication law which is almost never enforced.

Alaska:

Jason Cherry’s review

In Alaska, it is a misdemeanor to marry someone who is already married, marry someone when you are already married, or participate in a marriage involving more than two people. Cohabiting is also illegal. As is adultery and fornication.

Pretty much the same as Alabama, except that bigamy is a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Arizona:

Jason Cherry’s review

Bigamy (marrying a second person) is a felony in Arizona. Of note, only the person wedded to multiple people is in violation of the law, not the second person they marry. Arizona does not have laws against cohabiting. Adultery and fornication are illegal, but cohabiting is not.

Not a bad state to be polyamorous, actually. You can legally live together and not be up for anything worse than a slap on the wrist for violating a practically never-used law.

Arkansas

Jason Cherry’s review

California:

Jason Cherry’s review

California has no laws against fornication, adultery or cohabitation. So you can live together with your polyamorous snuggle, or you can get married and live with just your legal spouse, and in either case it is all good. Unless you have the money to pay a $10,000 fine and/or spend up to a year in prison, don’t marry more than one person.

Colorado:

Jason Cherry’s review

In Colorado, it counts as bigamy whether you marry a second person or cohabit with a second person while married. Colorado is notable for having a tradition of not enforcing this law unless you draw attention to yourself or violate more serious laws (such as in the Warren Jeffs case which involved forced child marriage and rape).

Connecticut:

Jason Cherry’s review

Bigamy is a felony in Connecticut and it applies both to legally marrying more than one person and to presenting yourself as married to a second person when already married to a first. So a polyamorous woman in a triad with two men who calls both of them her husband, even if she is only legally married to one, is in violation of this law.

Connecticut also has a law against adultery that can only be brought up by the offended spouse. So if everyone is happy, the state doesn’t care. If your legal spouse changes their mind, you may by charged with adultery.

There are no laws against co-habitting, or fornication, so as long as you aren’t married, or are married to only one person and everyone is happy, you are good to be polyamorous in Connecticut.

Delaware:

Jason Cherry’s review

Pretty much a repeat of Connecticut.

District of Columbia:

Jason Cherry’s review

Technically not a state, but relevant here. Marrying a second person, or marrying someone who is already married earns a prison sentence of a minimum of 2 years. Fornication is not a crime in D.C., but adultery may be, and it may be possible to end up in a common law marriage (if you live together long enough you are considered married) my sources are unclear on that one.

Basically don’t get married and don’t live together and you can practice polyamory all you want. If you want to get married to someone, or live together, make sure you get legal advice regarding adultery and/or common law marriages in D.C.

Florida:

Jason Cherry’s review

Laws make bigamy a felony and cohabiting, adultery and fornication are illegal (wonder when they’re going to start enforcing that last on Spring Break?) Not generally a good place to be polyamorous.

Georgia:

Jason Cherry’s review

Cohabiting with a second person, whether you are married to them or not, falls under the bigamy law in Georgia, which has a minimum sentence of 1 year imprisonment. Adultery and fornication are also illegal, and considered misdemeanors.

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Polyamory and Children: Legal Stuff

Minimal changes here. A few years ago I expanded this topic into a short series. Revised 4/13/17.

I wasn’t planning on tackling this topic for a while yet, but I’m afraid I can’t think of anything else to write on about polyam and children right now. Not because there isn’t much more to say, but because of my own life.

As I’ve mentioned before I was recently involved in a custody situation in which polyamory was made an issue. Largely on the basis of polyamory, the children were taken from me and their father (my ex) and given to their grandparents. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to appeal, and couldn’t get it in the time allowed. (I usually stay out of political stuff, just to jaded I guess, but the fact that if you can’t afford to spend several thousand dollars with less than a month’s notice means you can’t appeal, really gives well off folks a massive advantage in the civil ‘justice’ system, IMO.)

The laws regarding polyamory (and other forms of multi-linking) and children vary significantly from state to state, and country to country, but the general summary in the US is this:

With very rare exceptions, child protective services will not involve themselves unless there is clear evidence of neglect or abuse. Even if there are states whose laws allow the children to be taken away solely on the basis of lifestyle, CPS (or whatever name they go by in a given state) rarely cares, because they are overworked dealing with real cases of child abuse, abandonment and other horrors. So, living openly poly will not generally create any risk of losing your children.

If, however, you ever get involved in a custody battle, being polyamorous may put you at a disadvantage. If both parents have previously been involved in polyamorous relationships, and there is no third party, being poly really can’t have an effect (you’re objecting to your ex being in a type of relationship you’ve been in also? Don’t waste my time). If one parent is poly and the other has never been polyam, or if there is a third party involved, than polyamory can hurt you in a custody case. CAN. As PolyMom discussed in her blog several months ago, and I have experienced myself, it is fully possible for poly to brought up in a custody case and utterly ignored (“When I started as a judge back in 19XX, we called this kind of thing having extra resources. I don’t want to hear about it.”)

Being openly poly with children does not need to open you up to legal liabilities or create any risk of losing your children. However, if you do not explore polyamory until after you and your children’s other parent have separated or divorced, and the other parent is not involved in polyamory, you may put yourself at a disadvantage in custody cases. Your two options to avoid this risk are to either be a closet poly, or, if you think your ex may be open minded about poly, to go openly to them, discuss your desire to be polyamorous. If you are open about your lifestyle with them, and they don’t take issue with it immediately, than they will have a hard time trying to take issue with it in the future. Unfortunately, not exposing children to polyamory does not necessarily protect you. Even if your children have no knowledge of your lifestyle, never met any of your partners, etc etc; the fact that you engage in poly may still be seen as evidence that you are an unhealthy influence on your children do to your willingness to engage in polyamory.

The bottom line legally right now is that except in rare states that have specific laws regarding how non-conventional relationships should affect custody decisions, whether or not polyamory can hurt you in a custody case depends entirely on the judge and his or her personal take. If you have a judge who is prejudiced, or simply unaware of the reality of polyamory and the evidence that it is not harmful for children you can be in trouble. If you have a judge who is open minded and not against unconventional relationships, it may not effect the case at all.

(Originally posted January 2012)

Yay Life Insanity! (And Canadian Court Cases)

Most of this “not posting this week” posts I’ll end up deleting rather than editing and updating, because, well, a post saying “I won’t be posting today” 5+ years ago isn’t exactly relevant now, ya know? But this one also contains my immediate reaction to the big court case in Canada that challenged Canada’s anti-polygamy laws. At the time I wrote this I hadn’t yet dug into the details of the court’s decision. It was unfortunately the same tired, old reasoning that “we need laws against polygamy so we can stop child abusers” which has been trotted out time and again. As if we didn’t already have laws on the books against child abusers or something, ya know?

Also, fuck Thanksgiving. Seriously. I’m embarrassed how long it took me to realize how shitty that holiday is, and if you haven’t realized it yet, stop and think about what it means to Native Americans to celebrate the arrival of Europeans on this continent. Or to black folks to celebrate the origin of a colonial empire that kidnapped, raped, and murdered their ancestors by the millions. Lovely thing to have a party about. Not.

The webcomic I referenced here is sadly (thankfully) defunct. I love webcomics and was really frustrated with the lack of polyam-related webcomics. So I decided to create my own. But I can’t draw for shit… Reposted with commentary March 30, 2017.

PS. Comments about how “I celebrate thanksgiving as a time to be with family” yada yada will be deleted. You want to celebrate family togetherness, great, how about creating a new holiday that isn’t steeped in colonialism and genocide?

So life really got away from me this week, sorry all. I’ll be posting a late update to the webcomic sometime today or tomorrow. Hope to be fully back on track next week.

I will be skipping the normal Polyamory and Children post today because of the holiday, and I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving/Turkey Day. (Even if you don’t celebrate, you can still have a good day, right?)

On the subject of things to be thankful for, the Canadian Anti-Polygamy case ruling was released yesterday. I know there is a huge mixed reaction to the ruling (the short version for anyone who hasn’t heard is that having multiple marriages remains illegal, but the judge clarified that multiple relationships, including living together/common law relationships are not illegal as long as there is no ceremony to formalize the relationships). While it is not the outcome many polyam folk and polyam-supporters were hoping for, it is indeed a step in the right direction. So let’s be thankful for small steps, even as we keep working for more progress.

(originally posted November 2011)

A Personal Digression: Custody Case

I’ve fixed a few typos here and changed one instance of “polies” to “polyam folk.” Otherwise this is exactly as I posted it in the fall of 2011, including signed with a name I no longer use. My ex’s lawyer did in fact print this post out and ask me, while on the witness stand, to read my letter to the judge. Sadly, the judge was exactly as bigoted as I was afraid, and, well, the case ended badly. Though some long term good did come of it. Re-posted (but NOT revised) March 1, 2017.

I have nothing to say about pregnancy today. I’m having a bit of trouble focusing on much of anything at the moment.

You see, the fact that I write this blog is being used against me in a custody case. Posts from this blog have been printed out and brought into hearings to prove that I engage in polyamory and am therefore an unfit parent.

In a few weeks, I will be going into court for the custody trial. A court that will not care about all the research proving that polyamory is a healthy and ethical lifestyle, the published studies by Dr. Elizabeth Sheff, Dr. Geri Weitzman, and so many others. A court that will have no interest in the paper by law professor Ann Tweedy the Michigan University College of Law examining polyamory and its possible status as a sexual orientation and/or embedded personality trait (ie not a choice but a part of a person). A court that will be prejudging me – the root word of prejudice – based on nothing other then an assumption that anything other then monogamy is wrong, even though there is no evidence, no basis, no reason, other then knee-jerk ‘that’s not the way things are supposed to be’ emotional reaction behind the judging.

My saving grace is that for over a year I have only been in a relationship with my fiance, Michael. That I have previously written, on this blog, that that is the only relationship I am in.

Part of me is disgusted at my cowardice. That I am willing to hide behind that fact and not stand up in court and openly denounce their prejudice and hypocrisy. That I am not willing to fight for a lifestyle that is in no way unsafe or dangerous for my children.

But I can’t risk my children. And if the court demands that I live monogamously from now on I will do so.

Because I am judged guilty without benefit of trial.

I’ve seen the arguments in the community about whether polyam folk should push for legal rights, become politically active. So many say that ‘we shouldn’t rock the boat’, that ‘as long as keep our heads down we will be fine’, that ‘there is no point in exposing ourselves’.

Well, the courts will not educate themselves. The laws will not change themselves. And until other people stand up and say this is wrong, the attacks that are being made on me will keep happening to other people.

And what the hell, since I know people are printing out my blog to show the judge:

Your Honor,

If you should happen to read this, I will say here that to allow polyamory to be used against me in court, without knowledge of the nature of the lifestyle, or research which has been done on it is wrong. That there is no basis or reason to believe that polyamory is dangerous to my children, and that regardless of anything else, if I did choose to have other relationships when my children are with their father it would not affect them at all and should be nobody’s business but my own and my fiance’s.

Maybe this post will be used against me as well. Will you judge on my beliefs, your Honor? Does my willingness to say openly that there is nothing wrong with alternative lifestyles automatically make me an unfit parent, whether I engage in those lifestyles or not?

I will continue writing this blog, your Honor. I will continue to support everyone’s right to pursuit of happiness and freedom of expression – those grand words that are so often trampled in the cry of ‘shame! immoral! shame!’ with no basis other than the righteous indignation of those who think there is only one right way.

I just wish I was brave enough to stand up in court and say all this there.

Sincerely,
Jessica Burde

Family Names: Legal Stuff

Nothing much changed here. Laws in the UK and the US don’t seem to have changed much the last few years. If know anything about the laws in other countries, please share in the comments! Revised Jan 29, 2017.

Disclaimer part 1: I am not a lawyer, or more than a moderately competent researcher, please do not consider any info here as legal advice.

Disclaimer part 2: I am surprised and gratified by the international following this blog has picked up. There are readers from several different countries in Europe, England, Australia, Canada and possibly more. That said, I’m an (insert preferred pejorative) American.  I will occasionally (as with the UK below) stretch my research skills to dig up legal info for other countries. In general, legal stuff will be strictly US law.

So, that said, let’s get to the good stuff.

As discussed in the first post on family names,  some polyam family groups want to share a family name. For some families, having a name that they use day-to-day will be enough. Others will want to go the legal route and make their polyam family name official.

UK Name Change Laws

When it comes to name changes, folks across the pond have it sweet  – though not as sweet as it was ten years ago. In order to change your name in the UK, legally and officially, you fill out a ‘Deed  Poll’, sign it before an ‘independent witness’ (which from examples given means someone not related to you) and . . . that seems to be pretty much it. You can have the deed poll written up by a solicitor or by a company that specializes in them. Be careful– some companies’ deed poll documents aren’t universally accepted. Have to admit I’m not clear on that bit.

Anyway, once you have your deed poll, you provide a copy to your bank, the UK equivalent of the DMV, and any other official document organization you need to in order to get all your documents showing your new name. According to UK Deed Poll Service,  you should only need to pay for an updated passport. You’d need to pay UK Deed Poll Service 33 pounds for the first deed poll, and a reduced fee for others ordered at the same time.

There are places on the  internet that claim that a deed poll isn’t necessary and you can just start using a new name. From what I’ve been able to find, that was true up until 9/11, but new laws since then have made the deed poll mandatory.

American Name Changes

Ok, so welcome to confusion and insanity.

  • Federal law and legal precedent give two very contradictory pieces of information regarding changing your name:
  • Any person can change their name at any time, just by starting to use the new name. There’s some caveat’s and quibbles, but that’s the gist.

State’s have the right to determine who is allowed to change their name, and what the process will be.

Welcome to the joys of federation.

As near as I can parse this contradiction, you can simply start using a new name for anything that doesn’t require proof of ID. No one can stop you using whatever name you want. However, the standard proof of ID is issued by the states. So if you want to update your state issued ID (and thus open a bank account, get a job or do anything else that requires ID) under your new name, you need to jump through the state-ordained hoops.

While  these hoops do vary, the general tendency includes filing a petition for name change (and paying a filing fee), going before a judge to  explain why you want the name change (and paying court fees), going  through whatever additional steps are necessary (PA requires you to  publish the change in at least 2 newspapers), finally get the official  court documents saying your name is changed, then going ahead and updating all those legal documents (and paying the necessary fees for  those). If UKDPS is to be believed, our friends across the pond can get everything taken care of in around 3 weeks. Given the fact that court hearings are often scheduled months ahead of time, I think I can stand by my early statement – folks across the pond have it sweet. (And that doesn’t even count the monetary cost).

So how bad is it really?

I  feel like I’m being a bit of a downer here, probably at least partly because in my experience things involving the courts are a royal pain in the ass. That said, from everything I can find, name changes in the US,  while involved and expensive, are usually pretty straight forward. People who have been through it say it’s not much more hassle than getting your driver’s license or registering a child for school.

Name Change Law is a website that has both a list of the steps required in all 50  states (and D.C.) for changing your name and will (for a fee) supply an appropriate name change document that you can fill out for yourself.  For an additional fee, they’ll fill it out for you. All hail capitalism.

Or,  of course, you can start using a new name tomorrow, as long as you don’t mind you’re old name being on all your legal documents.

 

Pregnancy and Polyamory: Picking Baby Names

Did my best to removed gendered language and fixed some really poorly written sentences. Other than that, it’s much the same as it always was. Revised 1/16/17.

Picking baby names is one of the great joys of pregnancy. Also a real pain in the you-know-what. There are two extremes of name picking: those who have known the names they want for their children since they were children and those who don’t figure it out until after the baby is born. (I had a friend in high school who was named after a brand of soap. The hospital wouldn’t let them leave until her mother picked a name).

In between the two extremes are things like those who pore over baby-name books for hours, folks who want to name the baby after a relative, and the stereotypical ’run every possible name by your best friend to see what they think’. Oh – and don’t forget some families have naming traditions!

Like everything polyamory, if a decision is hard for two people, it is ridiculous for more people.

But why does it have to be more than two people? Why not just have the bio parents pick the name? First, you won’t always know who the second bio parent is. And some people may want to involve their polyam family in the decision, especially if everyone in the family is going to raising the children as parents. So, if you know for certain who the bio parents are, and it works for you, then certainly the bio parents can decide on the name themselves. If not . . . well, the ‘if not’ is why I wrote this blog post 😉

When my first child was born, I was in a triad. We did not know who the father was and we decided not to find out the assumed gender until the birth. One of my husbands didn’t want to discuss baby names. When he was born his parents had been arguing between two different names. They saw him and immediately knew which was the right one. So he was convinced that as soon as he saw the baby the perfect name would come to him. (He somehow didn’t notice the difference between picking one of two names and picking a name out of the blue). I wanted the three of us to go through baby books, rate names, make lists, and generally bored both of them to tears. My other husband seemed at least a little interested in the baby name books and my lists, but he wasn’t good at speaking up and voicing his opinion.

When my second child was born, we found out the assumed gender, boy, and the name was pretty much automatic. Both my family and one of my husband’s families have naming traditions for boys. And we were so focused on that, it didn’t even occur to us it left my other husband out of the discussion entirely. Much hard feelings from that.

Unfortunately, and as I’m afraid seems to be common for this blog, I don’t have any concrete suggestions on this one. It will be different for each family and each child. The usually polyam stuff of communication, honesty and respect will probably get you through somehow.

Last Names

Of course, as difficult as it can be picking the first name for your child, it kinda pales in comparison to how high feelings run when you are discussing last names.

It is traditional, in America, for a child to have their father’s last name. It is becoming more and more acceptable (if unwieldy) to hyphenate both parents’ names. Either of these options works well when the bio parents are known.

But what if you don’t know the second bio parent? Oy oy oy this one can be a real problem. For once, though, I actually have a few suggestions, none of which are perfect, but all of which can work:

  •     Use the mother’s name for the children: nice and simple, can work for all relationship configurations, and drs, teachers, etc won’t even blink at it.
  •     Hyphenate everyone’s name: not even gonna go into the problems with this one, but in a triad, especially if two members of the triad are legally married and have taken the same name, it is actually feasible
  •     Middle names: it is somewhat common to use the mother’s maiden name as a middle name for a child. There is no reason this can’t be adapted to polyam. And I have a cousin (child of a mono relationship) with three middle names and a last name, I’ve heard of people with more. So everyone can be included.
  •     Combine names: this one . . . is a stretch. But, if you don’t mind going for the odd and unusual, you can combine syllables from everyone’s last name to create a new name. Can’t say I like this one, and socially would cause a lot of problems, because it’s expected that a kid will have the same last name as at least 1 parent. But, it’s an option.

If you’ve had a child in a polyamorous family, how did you pick a name, and what was done for a last name?

Polyamory and Pregnancy: Legal Stuff

Removed gendered references to the other (ie not pregnant) bio parent. Corrected some info. A few other minor changes. Revised Jan 15, 2017.

Probably the biggest potential hassle in being polyamorous and pregnant is the birth certificate. (Yup, legal messes are always the worst kind.) In this case, it’s the issue of legal paternity.

First off, and to the best of my knowledge, as long as you aren’t legally married, you can do pretty much whatever you want with the birth certificate. Leave the “father” field blank until you have get a DNA test, put your primary down, put the partner your new baby looks like down… Seriously, if you aren’t married, whoever you say is the legal parent, is the legal parent.

If you are legally married, then it can get complicated. (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, I do not know the law throughout the US, never mind the world. I have given birth in two different states, and know polyam people in a few other states, and so far this issue seems common.) Y’see, some states have this rule that if you are married, your legal spouse’s name goes on the birth certificate automatically. It’s possible you were artificially inseminated to be sure that a specific partner would be the other bio-parent–if you aren’t legally married to that partner you still need to jump through hoops to prove it. (My second to last child, my husband and I had been separated for three years, he lived half the country away and we were in the middle of a divorce–they still wanted to put his name down.)

So, if you are married, and either don’t know who the other bio-parent is or know it wasn’t your legal spouse, what are your options?

Option 1: Save up for DNA testing. Yes, there are DNA tests you can get for $30 dollars through the mail – for this, they don’t count. DNA testing that will be accepted as legal evidence can run up to several hundred dollars (we paid $400 6 12 years ago). Save the money, and inform the hospital ahead of time that you will be having the test done. You’ll have to jump through some legal hoops and forms after the birth to get the certificate straightened out, but it’s pretty straightforward.

Option 2: Amniocentesis – there is a way of testing DNA through an amnio. Obviously, all the possible side effects apply. It is more expensive then regular testing, though if you need to have an amnio for health reasons, you may be able to tack the DNA test on without much extra cost. Big advantage: when the clerk shows up in your room after labor to take care of the birth certificate, you have the papers proving paternity right there.

Option 3: Put your legal spouse’s name down and don’t worry about it. You can get the $30 test later just to know what the medical history is, and otherwise who cares, you are all parents together anyway. Upside – cheapest option with the least hassle. Downsides – emotional impact of the other biological parent of your child not being acknowledged as the legal parent and/or not being certain who the other bio parent is. Some people won’t care, some will – a lot. Possibly greater expense down the line if for any reason you need to change the birth certificate to have other bio parent’s name.

Biggest thing – don’t be blindsided. Happened to me twice, cuddling new baby, happily enjoying motherhood and not a care in the world – bam legal shit. You can speak with a lawyer, your local health department, or the birth registrar at the hospital about the rules your state, so you know in advance what you are getting into.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Pregnancy blog series.

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Educating Polyamory Friendly Professionals

Minor edits and updates. In the years since I first wrote this my family spent some time living in Tennessee. Still not problems from doctors and such about being polyamorous. Though it helped that we could pass as monogamous as the time. Polyamory is well known these days, so you are more likely to find random professionals who are familiar with it. Revised Dec 20, 2016

It comes up with near predictable regularity in polyam forums:

How do I find a polyamory friendly professional?

The polyamory friendly professionals list is always referenced, but there is an assumption we need to find professionals who are already polyam friendly. Which kind of bothers me. If we keep going to the same polyam friendly professionals, where will new polyam friendly professionals come from?

To be fair, CARAS does good work and is providing more education to professionals all the time, but they aren’t miracle workers. So rather than searching the friendly professionals list in vain for someone local, how about we start educating our own polyam friendly professionals?

Over the past seven years, I’ve discussed and explained my lifestyle to obs, midwives, lawyers, shrinks, social workers and god-help-me Children and Youth Services representatives. I have never once dealt someone from the polyam friendly professionals list, and only once did I ever have a problem.

Now, living within an hour’s drive of NYC my whole life means that I’ve probably had a lot better luck than I would have if I was living in the Bible-belt. But I’ve chatted with polyam-folk in forums who lived in the Bible belt and who never had problems.

Educating a professional about polyamory is surprisingly easy. I’ve found the upfront and open approach is best. Request a consultation, and say something like ‘So-and-so recommended that I come to you, that you are the best in the area. I am in a polyamorous relationship, where I am in relationships with ___ other people. I need to know if you can be accepting and supportive of this.’

In general, I’ve found 4 common responses to this introduction:

“I’ve never heard of it before, but I’m willing to learn.” – great, answer questions, refer them to the PolyResearchers group on Yahoo!, or whatever else you can do to help them understand.

“I’m afraid I can’t be supportive of a lifestyle that is clearly (fill in reason they disapprove)” – thank them for their time and leave.

Initially say they accept, then get passive-aggressive about it – only ran into this once. I’m not sure if she honestly didn’t realize how much her bias’ were affecting her behavior, or was just an a—hole. Either way, these are the most annoying IMO b/c of the way they waste your time.

“Oh – like that show Sister Wives/Big Love. Sure, I have no problem with that.” – I just started running into this in the past year or two. In general, you can work really well with a professional who has this reaction. They are likely to be open-minded and accepting. However, you may need to deal with some misinformation on their part. Also, sometimes they want to hear how your relationship is different from the one they see on TV. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t matter either.

Resources for educating your local own polyamory friendly professionals:

Resources for educating your local own polyamory friendly professionals:

CARAS – CARAS is dedicated to the support and promotion of excellence in the study of alternative sexualities, and the dissemination of research results to the alternative sexuality communities, the public, and the research community.

What Therapists Should Know About Polyamory – article introducing what polyamory is, how it is practiced and some of the psych studies on polyamory over the past several decades. Written for therapists, but can be useful for family doctors/primary care physicians

Yahoo! PolyResearcher’s Group – this is a great place that your professional can go and ask questions. The group includes over three hundred members in varying fields of study. A great resource for anyone wanting to learn about current research in polyamory.

NCFS – the national coalition for sexual freedom should be a great resource and is the group that sponsored the article What Therapists Should Know About Polyamory, but in general while they support polyamory in theory, they are more focused on support for the BDSM community. Hard to blame them when kinksters are in danger of going to jail for their sexuality. The one area where I have found NCFS to be helpful in polyam situations is legal stuff. They may provide a lawyer with references, precedents, and research relevant to a legal case where your lifestyle is an issue. I understand that some of NCFS’ board members are moving to have more of a focus on polyamory and non-monogamy in the future.

Polygamy and Marriage

Minor edits here, no major changes. Today, the ideas Susan laid out are fairly well known in the polyam community, but as far as I know she was one of the first to address the question. Revised Dec 9, 2016.-

This is not my usual post, but my twitter feed led me the blog “The View from LL2,” writing about “Law, Economics, and All Things Slightly Geeky.” Back in 2010 “The View from LL2” posted “How to Legalize Polygamy.” I’d like to credit whoever tweeted it this wonderful post, but I’m afraid I was a ditz and lost the name. If you’ve tweeted or retweeted about this blog in the past day or so, please speak up in the comments!

As this is an eminently practical topic, and related to the concerns of many polyam peeps, I thought I would share it here.

The author, Susan, lays out two basic ways that polygamous marriage could be set up, how it might work, and what changes the legal code would need for these types of marriage to be possible. She dodges the question of necessary changes to legal codes regarding taxes, social security, inheritance and a host of other relevant legal areas, saying (realistically) that it is too much to cover in a single blog post.

Interestingly, she starts by saying that she doesn’t think legal polygamy will ever happen, and finishes by explaining how it might. I suppose time will tell.

Here are a couple excerpts about the types of polygamous marriage that could be set up:

(1) Group marriage contracts: I’ll start with the easiest form of polygamous marriage contract: the group-style marriage of three or more parties, in which all parties are equal members of the union. I call this arrangement the “easiest” because we already have a well-developed body of law to draw from in administering this form of marriage: business association law. In a group-style marriage, the marriage would be, in effect, an incorporated entity. As with corporate law, group marriages would possess articles of incorporation specifying the terms of the arrangement and, most importantly, would have provisions regarding if and how new members are to be admitted into the marriage, and how property is to be distributed in the event of dissolution by a member.

(2) Multi-marriage contracts: Multi-marriage contracts would be almost identical to the marriage contract currently available in the US. The primary difference — albeit a rather important one — is that they would lack the exclusivity clause that is implied into every marriage contract today. In other words, in multi-marriage contracts, a marriage only contains two parties, but parties are be permitted to enter into one or more of such contracts.

Susan has put a fair amount of thought into her ideas. Further details include what some necessary clauses might be, and how the two forms of marriage might interact.

Originally posted July 11, 2011.

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