Parental Rights

The "De Facto Parent" Doctrine and Polyamorous Relationships

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Lanfair v. Ruggerio, decided Oct. 16 by the Vermont Supreme Court (in an opinion written by Justice Carroll), offers an interesting illustration. The relationship seems to have been dysfunctional in many ways (as relationships that go to court usually are); and I have no reason to think that it's any more representative of all polyamorous relationships than the "traditional" child custody case is representative of more common heterosexual relationships. Still, it struck me as an interesting story that helps point to issues that will sometimes especially arise when courts deal with polyamorous relationships, as opposed to (say) "de facto parent" claims brought by stepparents or even by grandparents.

J.F., born in January 2015, is the biological son of mother and father. {Father did not participate in this appeal.} Mother is forty-one years old and works as a high school teacher. Plaintiff was a high-school student of mother during 2011-2012 and 2013-2014. Because plaintiff came from an abusive household, she relied on mother for moral support.

When plaintiff turned eighteen, she was kicked out of her home, and mother offered her a place to stay. Plaintiff accepted and moved into mother's and father's home in the fall of 2014. Mother was pregnant with J.F. at the time. Plaintiff paid $100 a month for utilities and helped with chores. Two weeks after moving in, plaintiff left the home to attend college in northern Vermont. She returned on the weekends.

Between the fall of 2014 and March 2015, plaintiff and father developed a romantic relationship, which turned into a sexual relationship. At some point thereafter, mother was invited into the relationship. Although mother accepted the invitation, the primary relationship remained between plaintiff and father. For example, mother tried to set up dates with father, but father thought it was unfair to make plaintiff stay home with J.F. Father and plaintiff occasionally went on dates in the evenings, however, and when they did, mother stayed home with J.F.

Nevertheless, the three of them slept in the same bed and eventually got matching tattoos and rings. There was concern, however, that the nature of the polyamorous relationship would ruin mother's career as a high school teacher. Due to this concern, the parties agreed to keep their relationship secret.

During mother's pregnancy, father did not want attend to attend mother's prenatal doctor's appointments because he was squeamish about doctors. Because plaintiff was interested in medicine, she wanted to attend. Mother and father agreed that plaintiff should attend mother's prenatal visits. The parties agreed that plaintiff and father would be present for J.F.'s birth, and plaintiff would cut the umbilical cord. The parties also agreed that J.F. would call mother "mommy," father "daddy," and plaintiff by her first name. In a Facebook post, dated January 5, 2015, mother expressed her support for plaintiff's help since moving in that fall and referred to her as a "parental figure."

After J.F.'s birth, plaintiff sent out the birth announcement to friends and family. Mother went on maternity leave and cared almost exclusively for J.F. After seven weeks, mother returned to work. While mother was at work, plaintiff and father cared for J.F. At the time, father did not work, and plaintiff had transferred to another school as an online student and lived with mother and father full time.

Between father and plaintiff, plaintiff provided more of the care for J.F. When mother was at home, she exclusively cared for J.F., which included before work, after work, and during weekends and holidays. If mother was late in returning home or early in going to work, plaintiff and father would get mad at her. Plaintiff and father also accused mother of spending too much time on her phone when she cared for J.F. In June 2017, mother again expressed her support for plaintiff's help in a Facebook post and referred to plaintiff as a "[p]art dad, part mom." In September 2018, J.F. started preschool and mother handled all school-related matters. This reduced the amount of time father and plaintiff cared for J.F.

Around January 2019, unbeknownst to father and plaintiff, mother consulted a divorce lawyer. After finding a document from mother's lawyer, father called mother insisting that she come home immediately. When she arrived, father and plaintiff confronted her, demanded that she hand over her phone, and when she did, they found evidence that she was having an affair.

As retaliation, they took and withheld mother's phone, her high-heeled shoes—which they referred to as her "whore shoes"—and her makeup. Father and plaintiff told mother she could not leave them and that she must continue working to provide for the family. They looked up FBI interrogation methods, including sleep deprivation techniques, and attempted to employ them on mother.

Soon after learning about the affair, father attacked mother in their home, hitting her and pulling her hair. Based on this incident, mother obtained an emergency relief-from-abuse (RFA) order against father, and he was charged with criminal domestic assault. The RFA order required father to vacate the home and awarded mother temporary custody of J.F. Mother and father eventually agreed to a "no findings" final RFA order that ended on October 1, 2019 and permitted father to have supervised visits with J.F. once the criminal conditions of release allowed for such contact.

Although plaintiff was not implicated in the claims supporting the RFA order against father, she left the home when he was forced to leave and moved into a hotel room with him. Plaintiff returned to the home every day for ten days to feed her cats. But after ten days, mother changed the locks. To retrieve her items, plaintiff sent mother's lawyer an email asking to gain access to the house where she referred to herself as a tenant who paid rent and "[p]rovided free daycare for the child."

Following these events, mother filed for divorce. While the divorce action was pending, plaintiff made serious accusations to mother's employer, which could have cost mother her job. Mother was placed on paid administrative leave for five weeks while the accusations were investigated. Mother was eventually exonerated and returned to work. After plaintiff made the allegations, mother tried to ensure that there was no contact between plaintiff and J.F. because she was concerned plaintiff would try to turn J.F. against her.

Plaintiff and father are in a committed, long-term relationship. Plaintiff filed her complaint for parentage in March 2019 once it became clear that mother would not allow her to see J.F. {In July 2019, mother and father reached a temporary stipulation for parental rights under which (1) mother would have sole legal and physical custody of J.F., (2) father could have nonsupervised visits with J.F. every Tuesday from 1:30 to 6:30, and (3) plaintiff would have no contact with J.F.} …

[P]ursuant to 15C V.S.A. § 501(a)(1), a person seeking to be adjudicated a de facto parent needs to prove the following by clear and convincing evidence:

(A) the person resided with the child as a regular member of the child's household for a significant period of time;

(B) the person engaged in consistent caretaking of the child;

(C) the person undertook full and permanent responsibilities of a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation;

(D) the person held out the child as the person's child;

(E) the person established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child that is parental in nature;

(F) the person and another parent of the child fostered or supported the bonded and dependent relationship required under subdivision (E) … ; and

(G) continuing the relationship between the person and the child is in the best interests of the child ….

To be adjudicated a de facto parent, a petitioner must prove the 15C V.S.A. § 501(a)(1) factors listed above by clear and convincing evidence. "Clear and convincing evidence is a very demanding standard, requiring somewhat less than evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, but more than a preponderance of the evidence." [The court agreed that Factors A, B, and F were present, but concluded that Factors C, D, E, and G were not. -EV]

Factor C requires a person seeking de-facto parentage to demonstrate he/she "undertook full and permanent responsibilities of a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation." The family division concluded that plaintiff failed to prove this factor by clear and convincing evidence because her role in the family was more akin to that of a nanny than of a parent. It found that plaintiff took care of J.F. on a set schedule during the day when mother was at work. Plaintiff did not care for him on weekends, vacations, or during the evenings or overnight. Furthermore, the family division found that when father was forced to leave the home because of the RFA order, plaintiff voluntarily chose to go with him and left mother with all the responsibility for caring for J.F. Finally, the family division found that mother made all medical and school-related appointments for J.F.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the family division failed to consider the unique nature of polyamorous families. According to plaintiff, the unique division of labor in her polyamorous relationship with mother and father required her to stop caring for the child once mother was home from work so that she could fulfill non-childcare related tasks necessary for the household. What the family division characterized as a nanny role was in fact the role of a fully and permanently engaged parent in a polyamorous household. Plaintiff also argues that the family division's finding that she voluntarily left the household was clearly erroneous….

Here, the record indicates that the family division considered the full context of the polyamorous relationship and nevertheless determined that plaintiff did not prove factor C. The court made detailed findings regarding the nature of the polyamorous relationship, including that mother, father, and plaintiff were in a romantic relationship for almost four years.

Considering this context, the family division concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate she undertook full and permanent parental responsibilities because her role was more of a nanny or a girlfriend than a parent because she only watched J.F. on a set schedule while mother was at work; did not care for him on weekends, vacations, or at night; and voluntarily left the home when father was forced to leave. The record indicates that the family division considered and made findings regarding the parties' polyamorous relationship and chose not to assign it significant weight in regard to factor C. This was not an abuse of discretion.

Plaintiff also argues that the family division's finding that she voluntarily left the home following mother's RFA order against father is clearly erroneous. We disagree. Plaintiff testified that following the issuance of the RFA order, she was staying with father at a hotel because she "was really concerned about his wellbeing." The family division's finding is fairly and reasonably supported by credible evidence….

Factor D requires a person seeking de facto parentage to demonstrate that he/she held out the child as their own. The family division concluded that plaintiff did not prove this factor based on the following findings: Mother, father, and plaintiff agreed to keep the nature of their polyamorous relationship a secret and J.F. called plaintiff by her first name in public and in private. Furthermore, when mother locked plaintiff out of the house, plaintiff sent an email to mother's lawyer and referred to herself as a tenant who paid rent and provided daycare to J.F.

Plaintiff again argues that the family division erred because it failed to consider the social complexities and nuances of a polyamorous relationship. If these complexities are taken into account, plaintiff argues that she proved factor D because mother acknowledged in two Facebook posts that plaintiff was a parent to J.F., mother allegedly testified that it made her jealous to think that the public saw plaintiff as J.F.'s mother, and it is not unusual for a child to refer to a non-biological mother by her first name…. [T]he family division acted well within its discretion in not assigning significant weight to this evidence because the Facebook posts represented "two statements over the course of four years" and in "practice, neither [mother] nor [plaintiff] held [plaintiff] out as a parent of [J.F.]." …

Factor E requires a person seeking de facto parentage to demonstrate he/she "established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child that is parental in nature." The family division concluded that although plaintiff demonstrated she had a bonded relationship with J.F., she had not demonstrated the relationship was parental in nature because, citing the discussion regarding factor C, plaintiff's relationship was more of a nanny than that of a parent. Plaintiff argues that her relationship with J.F. was parental in nature because she purchased J.F.'s clothes and attended medical and school-related appointments. In addition, plaintiff argues that mother acknowledged during her testimony that she never stopped plaintiff from caring for J.F.

As discussed above, the family division's conclusion that plaintiff acted more like a nanny than a parent is adequately supported by its factual findings, which included that plaintiff only watched J.F. on a set schedule while mother was at work….

Finally, the family division concluded that plaintiff did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that continuing her relationship with J.F. was in his best interest. Even assuming that plaintiff's relationship with the child was parental in nature, the family division concluded that "continuing a 'parental' relationship" was not in J.F.'s best interests.

As an initial matter, the family division unduly restricted factor G to a consideration of whether continuing a parental relationship between the person and the child is in the child's best interests…. Factor G provides that a person seeking de facto parentage must prove that "continuing the relationship between the person and the child is in the best interests of the child." By its plain text, factor G is not limited to a consideration of whether continuing a "parental" relationship is in a child's best interest; rather, it requires a broader consideration of the relationship between the person seeking de facto parentage and the child. This understanding is confirmed by 15C V.S.A. § 501(a)(1) as a whole because several other factors in § 501(a)(1) specifically address the "parental" aspect of the relationship between a person seeking de facto parentage and the child, and factor G considers only "the relationship."

Notwithstanding that the family division's interpretation of factor G was too narrow, it made specific findings and conclusions regarding the broader relationship between J.F. and plaintiff. It concluded that continuing the relationship was not in J.F.'s best interests because it found that the controlling nature of father's and plaintiff's relationship with mother had a negative impact on the child that caused J.F. to experience difficulty sleeping, constipation, and bedwetting. Furthermore, plaintiff's report to mother's employer resulted in mother being suspended from her job. Therefore, the family division found that continuing plaintiff's relationship with J.F. would result in continuing control over mother. These findings are sufficient to support a conclusion that continuing plaintiff's relationship with J.F. was not in the child's best interests….

[T]he family division's findings regarding the negative effect the antagonistic relationship between plaintiff and mother had on J.F. are [also] not clearly erroneous…. The family division found that prior to the separation, J.F. had difficulty sleeping, wet the bed, struggled with constipation, and had a nervous tick where he pulled at his lip. After the separation, however, the family division found that these behaviors either improved or stopped. It was reasonable to infer from these findings that J.F.'s behaviors improved because the stress in his home de-escalated.

In sum, the family division's conclusion that plaintiff failed to demonstrate factors C, D, E, and G by clear and convincing evidence is supported by its findings, which in turn are supported by the evidence.

NEXT: Judge Torruella, the Lone First Circuit Judge in Puerto Rico, Passed Away

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  1. This kind of soap opera is only going to get more interesting.

    It’s also an area which SF treated too simply. There have been plenty of polyamorous SF stories, but they never got down into the weeds like this.

    1. Actually, many of the elements are similar to the types of crap that traditional heterosexual parents do to each other when they get divorces. The poor kids become pawns in the parents’ disputes. This is so standard, and the only thing non-standard about this was that this was a throuple.

      1. Although in this case it appears that the non-parent component of the couple is the one making the kid a pawn.

      2. I’m not even sure it was really a “throuple” as opposed to a plural marriage or sister-wife type situation. Seems like the new girl started hooking up with the husband, and the wife and new girl were just friends.

  2. Absolom, Absolom! made for TV version. God be with you J. F.

  3. So five days a week the mother spent 5 hours a day maximum with the child (taking out 8 hours the child and adult are both asleep, 8 hours for the time she spent at work, and a minuscule 1 hour for commutes/lunches/breaks). On weekends she would spent 16 hours a day with the child. That adds up to 57 hours a week for the child.

    The Plaintiff on the other hand spends 9 hours minimum every weekday caring for the child for 45 hours a week.

    Time spent parenting appears to be roughly equal. It seems that the judges could have just as easily stated that the mother is acting in the role of a nanny as she had a set schedule to care for the child and did not attend the child’s medical appointments (a.k.a. the events were important decisions about the childs health are made. A role generally held by the parent.).

    1. Yes, let’s ask the courts to take judicial notice of all the Brits who worshipped their Nanny, (what did Churchill say?). I’m not being facetious, force the courts to study relationships from Biblical times forward. We all want what is best for the child. Many mothers could not be bothered with their children. Place courts in charge from birth
      the Nanny State.

    2. “It seems that the judges could have just as easily stated that the mother is acting in the role of a nanny…”

      Except that the mother was in fact the mother.

    3. Except the mother was setting up and going to all the medical appointments….

      If the mother was late getting home, the nanny got upset because she was watching the kid “too long”…

      The nanny left the kid with the mother to chase after the father…

      The Nanny was going on dates with the father, leaving the kid at home with the mother. The opposite “wasn’t fair” said the father.

  4. DRAMA!!!

  5. This kind of silliness is going to continue until there is a Lawrence-like decision recognizing and de jure legalizing muli-person civil unions (marriages) and BDSM relationships.

    1. Seems unlikely. Strange political bedfellows would be against it. Hardcore feminists view plural marriage of any sort as harmful to women, and conservatives, especially ones who read their Old Testament, know that they are not so good either.

      1. If two homosexuals deserve “enoblement” and the “dignity” of state licensing schemes, then surely three normal people do too.

        1. I’m not saying the legal and moral arguments don’t exist for such a thing happening, but just that I don’t think the political support is there for it. Feminists think that every woman in a plural marriage, the kind some Morman’s have, is a victim. And conservative Christians I think with this gay marriage bit, are not going to try to kick Lucy’s football again…at least on this cultural issue.

          1. Since when does political support dictate gay rights?

            There was a majority political support for natural marriage, but that didn’t matter to that gay judge in California, or to SCOTUS.

            1. By the time Lawerance and later Obergerfell were decided by the courts the way they were, they were already behind the culture…merely catching up. That doesn’t make them good decision, btw. They were terrible ones. Social change should come from the legislature in a democracy. But, the culture was there before the courts were, and the legislature would have been there soon enough. The GOP punted to the courts to make the change they didn’t want to be seen holding back.

              1. ” Social change should come from the legislature in a democracy. ”

                It’s true, Heller/McDonald, Parents Involved, Citizens United, etc., terrible decisions.

                1. I’ll note that the left does not believe in stare decisis for those cases.
                  It does depend on whose ox is being gored.

                  1. You mean they don’t believe in stare decisis for cases which they think violated stare decisis?

        2. You have to love those arguing for a monopoly on ‘state licensing schemes’ for people like themselves accusing others wanting in on that as being petty in some way.

          1. If the State is in the business of conferring dignity.

            Who doesn’t deserve that dignity? I mean, how can the State tell a single mother that two gays in love are better than her?

            1. ” how can the State tell a single mother that two gays in love are better than her?”

              Better than her at what? Earning income? paying taxes?

        3. It took gay folk decades of coming out to family and friends, at work, in schools, marching in the streets, and so-on before minds changed to the point where we could even win Lawrence v. Texas (2003), nevertheless the later Windsor v. United States (2013) and Obergefel v. Hodges (2015).

          Which is to say, if poly-amorous folks (or rather, polygamist folks, since cohabitation with multiple partners is legal in every state except Utah) want to fight for their civil rights, they have a long road ahead of them. And by the time they win, it won’t be treated –as you do here– as a ‘gotcha’, but a legitimate policy debate.

          1. ” cohabitation with multiple partners is legal in every state except Utah”

            Unless you count the states that still prohibit cohabitation as a criminal act.

    2. Or disestablishing state sponsored marriage allowing anyone to marry anyone else in any way they see fit. The Courts can then expend their time on making the kids don’t get taken advantage of.

      1. Do you think that there is a societal stability that is inherently helpful for there to be two parent families, one parent of each sex as a child needs the influence of each sex?

        1. In our post-modern society, the time has come to recognize that multiple and BDSM relationships are as much orientations as gay relationships. The alternative is old-fashioned bigotry.

          1. Is this serious, or satire. I cannot tell. No offense.

              1. Don’t understand what you mean by a “BDSM relationship.”
                (And I fully understand what “BDSM” itself means.)

                If it’s a two-partner relationship, they can already get married if that’s their wish. If it’s a multi-partner relationship, then that’s more complicated but it falls into the same bin as plural marriages in general. The specific arrangement, or “power sharing” dynamics, between the participants is not material to the legal status of the relationship.

                Interestingly, my evangelical sister and our new conservative justice are both in deeply religious, heterosexual marriages with strict power sharing rules without (I presume) the BDSM. So, I don’t even think the power sharing aspects of BDSM are that unique or different than existing “traditional” marriage.

                1. I meant a 24/7 dominant submissive relationship, with or without safewords as the partners wish.

                  1. I should have added that if BDSM activities are included, that is almost certainly a disqualifier in custody battles etc.

                    Simple power sharing in St Paul’s sense of wives been subject to their husbands is not what I meant.

                    1. I am offended by the hideous bigotry of your intentional disinclusion of the furries.

            1. I’m serious. I’ve always believed that what people do in the bedroom as long and they are adults and willing is fine with me. If they want to live together as a family that’s fine as well. American history is littered with communal lifestyles, some involving sex and some not.

          2. Alito and Thomas feel strongly that the law (Oberegefell) should not set up illiberal troglodytes like themselves to be seen as old-fashioned bigots.

        2. Do they need the influence of each sex as parents, or is it important to have siblings from each sex? How much more important is it to have the influence of each sex as it is to have influence of, say, different races/ethnicities and such? How does the fact that the number of heterosexual but eventually single parent families, widowed families, etc., is > than the number of homosexual unions wanting/having children figure into this?

          1. It’s always sad when a child doesn’t have their mommy and daddy.

            1. Sometimes a lousy mother or substandard father is the child’s most severe problem.

              1. This is where “all things being equal” is an important phrase.

                Is it better to have both mother and father…. “all things being equal”?

                Clearly, having a mother and a father who are homeless, abusive, drug-addicted parents who endanger the very lives of the children is less desirable than having two lesbian transgender women moms who are heart surgeons at Vanderbilt hospital as your loving and devoted parents.

                But that isn’t “all things being equal”.

                1. “Clearly, having a mother and a father who are homeless, abusive, drug-addicted parents who endanger the very lives of the children is less desirable than having two lesbian transgender women moms who are heart surgeons at Vanderbilt hospital as your loving and devoted parents.

                  But that isn’t ‘all things being equal’”

                  Real life is full of messy complications. Children need parents. The exact configuration of the parents is much less significant than the actual fitness of the parents, as you suggest.

                  Having been a single parent… I was satisfied with the outcome I was able to achieve, and I don’t think the fact that my ex-wife checked out of her daughter’s life was more damaging because of the fact that she was the child’s mother. Divorce is stressful for children no matter who the cheating dog parent happened to be.

      2. Or disestablishing state sponsored marriage allowing anyone to marry anyone else in any way they see fit.

        While also disestablishing, I presume, any state-sponsored benefits of marriage. Particularly ones that involve moving money from my pocket to yours based on your self-declared “marital” status.

        1. Yes the tax code could become marriage neutral. Division of property might be a stumbling block, but it seems to be already.

          Given that the number of children born outside marriage today is approaching 50%, the courts are used to dealing with these kinds of messy relationships.

          Many people, especially people of faith, would still choose to get ahead with a religious ceremony whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Budhist, Scientology or Pastafarian. They could stay married for a long time and probably even go though religious divorces and property settlements.

          1. That would be best all the way around

            1. As a longtime victim of the “marriage tax”, I thank you for your support.

  6. “It seems that the judges could have just as easily stated that the mother is acting in the role of a nanny…”

    Except that the mother was in fact the mother.

    1. The mother was the mother but didn’t really act like a mother. Now why should a court take that into account when determining the best interest of the child?

  7. I hope J.F. overcomes the clustermuck that is the ostensible adults currently associated with J.F.

    When you reach 18, J.F., leave and never go or look back.

    1. On this, we agree.

      1. What Rev doesn’t seem to get (though he might) is that J.F. is a victim of the sexual liberalism that he defends. Now, maybe the answer to rampant fatherlessness in the black community and sexual abuse by homo-predator priests and Boy Scout troop leaders isn’t some form of sexual fundamentalist conservatism, but still, the consequences of the horses leaving the barn are viable in this FUBAR of a case.

        1. JF won’t be a victim as long as the mom wins the case. I have the impression that she was at best a half-hearted participant in the arrangement. And then because of societal prejudice the agreement had to be kept secret for fear of her losing her job.

        2. You prefer Strom Thurmond-Donald Trump-Roy Moore-Dennis Hastert-Newt Gingrich “family values” sexual standards, mad_kalak?

          1. I guess you prefer when Joe Biden gives you the finger. Ask his many unwilling victims.

        3. Of course homo-predator priests is a result of all that sexual liberalism going on there…

          1. That comment being off topic. But If off-topic does not deter Kirkland, it should not deter you.

          2. Of course it is, but I expect you wouldn’t know. Where does the priesthood draw it’s pool from? Why the laity of course. There was, in the 1960s and 70s a relaxing of the deliberate exclusion of those who felt same sex attraction from priestly formation. What do you think the result was?

            1. That openly gay men didn’t become priests or Boy Scout troop leaders. This really isn’t complicated.

            2. ” in the 1960s and 70s a relaxing of the deliberate exclusion of those who felt same sex attraction from priestly formation.”

              But they kept the theory that priests are celibate and have no interest in sex. A well-known element of sexual liberation.

        4. […] sexual abuse by homo-predator priests and Boy Scout troop leaders isn’t some form of sexual fundamentalist conservatism […]

          Seeing as “sexual fundamentalist conservatism” is precisely what enabled those abuses…

          Or have you forgotten that openly gay men weren’t allowed in the Boy Scouts or priesthood, and it was only the closet-cases… which are caused by “sexual fundamentalist conservatism” and not sexual liberalism.

        5. “Now, maybe the answer to rampant fatherlessness in the black community and sexual abuse by homo-predator priests and Boy Scout troop leaders isn’t some form of sexual fundamentalist conservatism”

          Well, the first comes largely from locking up the would-be fathers at an substantially elevated rate, and the second comes from deciding that priests should be celibate. I believe that both of these are preferred outcomes of conservative politicians.

  8. While mother was at work, plaintiff and father cared for J.F. At the time, father did not work

    Quark: “In this holodeck simulation, you are the bull stud of your own harem.”

    1. Pretty clear who was being taken advantage of in this arrangement,

    2. Unemployed married man manages to add a teenager to his harem while convincing his wife to continue to pay the bills.

      Frankly it is amazing.

  9. Seems like everyone is forgetting the kid. Maybe social institutions are there for both the stability of the “village” and for the youngster. But we are at the point where why not legalize polygamy. It will be a social experiment and in 20 years we will know why it wasn’t such a good idea just like keynsian economics or neoconservatism

    1. Polygamy will be legalised one day, but it won’t be a religious case, likely will be a same sex or bi thruple who demands it

      1. polyamory is legal today (except for people subject to the UCMJ). That should satisfy most of its practitioners for the foreseeable future. The business of consenting adults doesn’t have to be anyone else’s business.

    2. Eh…

      The main thing that complicated this case is the secrecy. A lot of the de facto parent stuff relies on what you present and publicly identify as, so the relationship being a secret is the complicating part.

      Now everyone is focused on the polyamory part as the cause for secrecy, but honestly, the new girl being the wife’s former student, and the age gap that implies, would probably have been enough cause for secrecy anyway.

    3. The challenge of legal polygamy will come in rewriting the statutes to account for it.
      The problem is that there isn’t a chapter of the statute book that says “Legal recognition of marriage will confer the following rights: (list)” Instead, all the legal benefits are spread out through the whole thing. So you will have to go out and find them all, then adjust them to switch from an assumption that everybody has at most one legal spouse, to nailing down how to resolve matters if there are more than one spouse, and they are in less than perfect agreement with each other. So, to pick just one to use as an example, poor D, a dude, has been insufficiently cautious crossing the street and has been run over by a bus. He needs some medical treatment but was unable to give informed consent for it before he lapsed into a coma. In present law, if he has a spouse, the spouse can be consulted and can give informed consent for medical treatment. So what do we do if he has two spouses? And one of them doesn’t approve of medical science. So spouse #1 says “do whatever you have to do to save him” and spouse #2 says “don’t hook him up to any machines”. What treatments can be administered?
      we’ll need to work through the entire code, find all the places where powers are delegated to spouses, and decide how to resolve conflicts between the spouses over a power or benefit extended to spouse(s) You could do it by global search and replace if you decide, say, that the spouse who’s been a spouse the longest gets the power or benefit, but if there isn’t a single rule appropriate for all circumstances it’ll have to be done the long, slow, tedious way. Somebody will have to pay for that. It’s not clear that poly people want this enough to cover the cost, whereas it seems that anti-poly people really, really don’t want it.

  10. Nothing really new here. Dad wanted the girl as his concubine and girl is jealous of the mom. Both dad and girl are lazy and want mom to do all the child rearing so it doesn’t interfere with their fun. Sometime real life imitates Jerry Springer.

  11. Since Meyer v. Nebraska amd Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Constitution has been interpreted to inhibit states from taking children away from their parents, under a line of reasoning that, ironically, led to Roe v. Wase and beyond.

    Of what possible use is a constitutional right of parents to make decisions about their children if a state gets to define who a parent is however it wants?

    The Supreme Court went completely against the original privacy cases in its efforts to constitutionalize its vision of social transformatioj, completely undermining the original understanding of privacy.

    One hopes that the change in court personnel will end the wild ride and restore order. As Justice McReynolds explained in the original cases, constitutional parental relationships are about biology. The “dynamics of polyamorous relationships” are matters completely irrelevant to biology. The Constitution doesn’t care about them.

    1. ” The Constitution doesn’t care about them.”

      The Constitution doesnt care about much of anything, what with being made of paper and all. But people care.

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