Finances can be complex in any relationship. Even when they just involve two adults. However, when you add a third, fourth, or even more partners to the mix, things can quickly become even harder to manage.
The presence or lack or primary partners – a relationship that is given priority over the others – can play a factor. Additionally, if there are any children. Whether the partners live together or separately also impact the financial side of the relationships.
If you are wondering about the financial ramifications of having multiple partners. Here is an overview of the kinds of relationships that exist. Also, here are some of the complexities that come along with them.
Bigamy vs. Polygamy vs. Polyamory
Many people confuse the terms “polygamy,” “bigamy,” and “polyamory,” using them interchangeably. However, while a polygamous relationship is polyamorous and may involve bigamy. A polyamorous relationship is not necessarily polygamous or have anything to do with bigamy.
Bigamy involves attempting to legally marry more than one person. In the US, bigamy is illegal. A person can only be legally married to one other person. Bigamy is a form of polygamy.
Polygamy is also illegal in the US. Polygamy can occur when a person enters into a relationship that is treated as a marriage. This occurs while they have a marriage-like relationship with someone else. A polygamous relationship could involve two people who are legally married. As well as a third or more people who they treat as spouses, even if they have not attempted to marry them legally. This means polygamy may or may not also involve bigamy.
In general, polygamy was made illegal because of common law marriage statutes in various states. In a common law marriage, a relationship can have legal rights and protections similar to an actual marriage. Even if they pair never obtained a marriage license or got legally married. If more than two people live as married, then they could all be deemed part of a common law marriage. This type of marriage is not legal.
Polyamory is different. It is simply a form of nonmonogamy. This may not involve any marriages, either legal, common law, or otherwise.
While romantic relationships may exist between more than two people in polyamory. Each relationship is not necessarily treated as a marriage. For example, a woman may be legally married to one partner while having another partner who is treated like a boyfriend or girlfriend. Alternatively, a woman may not be married at all. She may choose to maintain romantic relationships with more than one partner.
Polyamory is not illegal as long as the relationships don’t transition into a polygamous or bigamous state.
The Financial Implications of a Polyamorous Relationship
Handling finances while being part of a polyamorous relationship can be complex, but also highly varied. One of the biggest factors in how things are handled tends to be cohabitation and whether any two people are married or living as such.
Cohabitation can mean that certain costs need to be split. For example, sharing a portion of the rent or mortgage payment responsibility may be necessary. Similarly, utilities, cable, and internet costs might be managed collectively.
However, even if two members are married or living as married, they may choose to maintain separate bank accounts to manage their income. Comingling finances is not a requirement of marriage, and a separation may make things easier to manage between primary partners and any additional relationships they maintain.
Often, if a couple is married and polyamorous, and choose to comingle their finances, then it’s wise to budget for expenditures on other partners. This can help set limits on how much each person can spend on their other relationships, ensuring enough money is available to handle joint obligations.
Alternatively, a cohabitating primary couple may choose to maintain a joint bank account for shared financial responsibilities and separate accounts for their spending. This can function similarly to the budgeting approach for entirely comingled finances, but may provide for some additional privacy.
In some cases, members of polyamorous relationships may choose not to cohabitate, even if they maintain a primary relationship. In these scenarios, each individual may be solely financially responsible for their homes, bills, and finances. This means joint budgeting isn’t necessary, and each person can spend what they like based on their needs and preferences.
There is also nothing to say that every member of a larger polyamorous relationship couldn’t cohabitate together. However, this can make it hard to maintain a legal separation between polyamory and polygamy, particularly in states where common law marriage exists.
Often, this means that strict financial boundaries may need to be in place. For example, sharing a bank account between more than two members of the relationships, or having multiple two-person accounts with different partners, could blur the legal lines. Additionally, estate planning can be complex if you wish to leave something to non-primary partners.
Understand State Laws
Ideally, anyone in or considering a polyamorous relationship should review their state’s laws regarding common law marriage and polygamy. That way everyone can understand what actions may cross into the polygamous arena, allowing all members to avoid any legal penalties for the relationships.
It may also be wise to consult with a lawyer for estate planning or large joint financial purchases, such as a house, as they may be able to provide guidance to ensure no legal boundaries are incidentally crossed.
The Financial Implications of a Polygamous Relationship
A polygamous relationship can come with all of the financial challenges of a polyamorous relationship and then some. First, since polygamy is illegal, there are potential legal costs that can occur in regards to the relationship’s existence. For example, lawyer and court fees may be expenses that must be managed.
Additionally, in polygamy, more than one relationship is treated like a marriage. This could mean multiple partners all cohabitating and sharing the responsibilities of managing the household, or that some parties are full members of multiple households.
Setting multiple budgets may be necessary to manage a polygamous relationship. This is regardless of how many people earn an income. If there is more than one physical home. Anyone who is part of multiple households may have to divide their income. Everyone must pull their weight, which can complicate the financial aspects of the relationships.
If everyone cohabitates, a single budget may be sufficient. However, spending limits on non-household expenses is necessary to keep everyone financially on track.
The Complexity of Estate Planning
Estate planning will also be complex if everyone cohabitates in a home at least one party owns. Especially, since more than one relationship is treated as a marriage. This is one of the reasons polygamy is illegal, as the legal complexities are hard to navigate. However, with an estate plan, certain issues are resolved. But, if one party chooses to fight against the plan at the time of one family member’s death, it may not be easy to reach a resolution.
Ultimately, polygamous and polyamorous relationships do come with financial impacts. By openly communicating and planning, it is possible to come up with viable solutions. These are solutions that work for a person’s lifestyle. However, if the relationship is legally polygamous; there are numerous hurdles along the way. It’s wise to avoid crossing into that territory.
Do you have something to add to the information above? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Looking for more helpful articles to help you manage your finances? Here are more great articles:
- Romancing Your Sweetheart on a Budget
- Household Budget Categories – What You Need to Know
- 6 Practical Tips for a Perfect Budget
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