Re: AltInst: Fwd: Legal Group Marriages?

From: david friedman <>
Date: Fri Apr 03 1998 - 13:27:41 PST

You raise an interesting question. I think it divides into at least three

1. Family ownership and control of property:

I suspect this could be done through a partnership or something similar,
although I do not know the relevant law well enough to advise on details.

2. Rights of spouses with regard to each other--for example, if one spouse
is injured and unconscious, do the others have a right to decide what
happens. And, related to this, what is the legal situation if one spouse
wants a divorce--is the marriage an enforceable contract, or terminable at

Some of this you might get via living wills and the like. Some you can get
by having conventional marriages embedded in the group marriage.

3. Rights with regard to children. The general legal situation is that
courts believe they are entitled to rule on the basis of what they think
the interest of the children is. If I were in a polygamous marriage (not
likely--I had a hard enough time finding one woman willing to put up with
me) with children, I would be very cautious about making the fact public,
for fear that some judge at some point would conclude that none of us were
fit parents for our children.

My own suggestion for dealing with this problem is to take advantage of the
common institution of serial polygamy to disguise what is actually ordinary
polygamy. Suppose, for example, you want a family of two men and one woman.
The woman marries the first man, has a child (not necessarily his--I am
assuming the whole triad exists in fact, although not in law, at this
point--but treated as his for public purposes), then gets divorced and
marries the second man. The first man now has a perfectly legitimate
explanation of his frequent presence in the household--he is exercising his
parental rights with regard to his child. The mother has an ordinary legal
claim with regard to both children, one father with regard to each.

Hope this helps a little.

David Friedman

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Received on Fri Apr 3 13:44:55 1998

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