How U.S. Family Law Might Deal with Spousal Relationships of Three (or More) People

Edward Stein.

For much of this nation’s history, the vast majority of people have believed that being married to more than one person at the same time is deeply problematic. Further, polygamous marriage has never been legal in the United States. Despite this, some people have been in plural or group relationships and some of these people have wished to gain legal recognition for these relationships. The arguments for recognizing such relationships are persuasive, but the prospects for legalization of polygamous marriage seem slim in the near future. This Article offers a suggestion of how the law of domestic relations might deal with such relationships, focusing on same-sex “triads.” The proposal is that domestic partnership or civil union laws, which remain on the books in some jurisdictions, but are now rarely used, could be repurposed and adapted to recognize and protect triads and perhaps other group and plural relationships.

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