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Featuring Spice! -- The PolyFamily Web Comic

Polyamory for the Practical

Marriage and Legal Benefits

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  For accurate legal advice, consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction.  This page is intended to give ideas about how to accomplish your aims.

Important Note:

As of April 29, 2004, none of this advice can apply in the Commonwealth of Virginia.   House Bill No.  751 "Marriage Affirmation Act" bans gay marriage or civil union, and bans recognizing gay marriages or civil unions performed in other states, but it also bans any "partnership contract or other arrangements that purport to provide the benefits of marriage."

This means wills, custody agreements, powers of attorney, joint property, and medical powers of attorney that poly families in Virginia can be easily overturned.   Even if you're a couple that CHOOSES not to be married, you're going to be very much at the mercy of how liberal or not the judge is.




Why do people get legally married?

Good question.  The answers usually runs thus: "We love each other and want to share our lives with each other and we have a public ceremony to make a public commitment to that effect."

Well, if that's so, then why bother with getting a piece of paper from the State? Seriously.  You can hire a hall, get some minister or other official to mumble whatever over you, speak your vows and go on to have one hell of a party.

But when people get married they don't do that, do they? They get a piece of paper from the State rather like the one I have in the filing cabinet right next to me.  It lists my name, my legal husband's name and the name of the minister who pronounced over us those magic words, "By the power invested in me by the (State of your choice) I pronounce you man and wife."

What did we get for going to the trouble of going to City Hall and getting the forms filled out rather than having the party and moving in without all that nonsense.

  • I got to change my name without going before a judge
  • I get to file my income taxes jointly.
  • I get to be listed by my husband as a dependent (This means I get life insurance through him at work
  • If I die intestate, my son get most of my property, managed by my husband until he reaches the age of majority
  • If there is a medical emergency and I cannot speak for myself, my husband can make those decisions for me.
  • If there is a medical emergency with my son and I am unavailable, my husband can direct his care
  • Any property gained during the marriage (upon its breakup) is generally considered community property. (At least in my state).

Notice we're dealing mostly with taxes, inheritance, and medical decisions here.  These are things that are assumed to accompany the marriage relationship.

However, there are no major benefits of marriage that cannot be arranged in another way if that is what you wish.

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first.

  1. Inheritance

    You can write a will to do pretty much anything you like.  If a close relative has a claim, it is entirely likely that your will will be contested.  There are ways to rig this if you have enough property to matter.  You can also create a living trust.  Without going into too much detail, a living trust is an entity similar to a corporation that owns your property with whomever you wish.  If a member of the trust dies, the trust goes on and the property does not hit probate.  For more on this check out the Nolo Press article .
  2. Insurance

    This is actually a somewhat difficult and expensive one.  I am increasingly of the opinion that it is best if a poly family can simply start a business together.  Then insurance can be handled through a major medical insurance plan and a medical savings account.  I've become somewhat disgusted with HMOs, personally and would have done exactly this even if we were not a poly marriage.
  3. Medical Decisions

    Here we have an easy one.  It's called a "Medical Power of Attorney".  I found a pretty good article on what it can and cannot do as well as its powers and limitations.  In a nutshell, it provides for the person holding the MPA to make medical and ONLY medical decisions for you if you are incompetent to make a decision at that point.  (i.e. unconsciousness). Here is a fairly through article on it,
  4. Children and custody

    This is a hard one.  Were anything to happen to me and Our Prince, -the biological parents of our son- we would want the Goddess of Giggle and The Beast to rear him.  It's only natural.  They are both very involved in his care, as are The Prince and I the biological daughter of the Goddess of Giggle and The Beast.  In such an instance, it is important for each person to have a will and name up to two guardians for the children.  If you are legally married make sure that each spouse has a will and names the guardians in the same order.  You can also grant an authorization for childcare for any spice you might have with this form.  It's not likely to be binding in court, but it does provide written documentation of your wishes and permits your spice to seek medical care for your child and gives them authority to pick them up at school and sign for field trips and the like.

    Obviously, that's the easy part.  What if the guardianship is contested?

    That's a good question, class.  It shows you're taking an interest in the work.  If no-one else has any other questions, we'll call it a day.

    No, I wouldn't buy that, either.  Guys, the bad news is that courts tend to favor blood relatives -- especially when said relatives are overtly solid citizens.  "The best interests of the child" is usually interpreted as, "the one in a best financial position to support a child".  Need I point out that life insurance is a good idea? Now, if you can prove abuse or neglect, that's a different matter.  I suggest hauling things out in the open and settling them before a court case poisons everyone.

    Another thing you might consider is saving up for a Poly Legal Defense Fund before you move in together.  One gentleman from a poly family with which I am familiar commented that he thinks that $5,000 for such a fund is quite a wise idea.  With three or four wage earners saving, it can take less than a year to come up with this.
  5. Taxes

    Own a business -- by preference an S corporation, where things you would like to have are legitimate business expenses.   I'll use OLQ as an example.   In the tax bracket of either couple in our marriage, if we bring in another, say $6500 in personal income, we'd have to pay around $2600 in various taxes.   If that is money that is brought into a corporation and used for things that business might need, then you can have those things and because the business owns it, you can pay for them before you pay a cent in taxes.   Our business pays for our high speed Internet connection, and part of our rent and utilities since both computers are in the same room and they are used almost exclusively for web design work and business meetings.

    Do be sure to run your business at least on a break even basis.   If you've formed an S-corporation, you can even have a personal advantage in taxes by running it at a loss for a few years while still having the use of some toys and things you might want.

    By the way, this is advice for a tax shelter, not so much so for making a great deal of cash, but a way to get more things on a pre-tax basis.  




A portrait of the Goddess of Java rendered by the Goddess of Giggle


Copyright 2004, PolyFamilies, All Rights Reserved.




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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  For accurate legal advice, consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction.  This page is intended to give ideas about how to accomplish your aims.

If you're actually a member of a poly family, you can join this list.   Most of us find it refreshing to be able to discuss poly issues with people who "live the dream" as it were.   You don't actually have to be a member of a poly marriage to join, but most members are.
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