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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