In the last few years, there has been a lot of news coverage on the subject of “polyamorous” relationships, or in other words, relationships comprised of more than two people.

At Arlingsworth, we are finding we are helping more and more people with questions about three or four-way relationships, and so we thought we’d share our information on polyamory and where the law comes in.

Is polyamory a new idea?

Polyamory is not a new idea whatsoever. The term was first coined in 1992, and as of 2009, it is estimated that there are as many as half a million polyamorous relationships in the US. There are many forms of polyamorous relationships, such as married couples agreeing to relationships outside the marriage, open relationships, or a couple bringing a third member into their relationship. Polyamory is also a part of certain cultures and religions.

Are polyamorous relationships becoming more popular?

Last year, polyamorous relationships made the news in a big way after the Green Party commented on the topic at the launch of the party’s LGBTIQ manifesto in 2015. While party leader Natalie Bennet said the Green Party at present had no specific policy on relationships involving more than two people, she was open to creating one. Since that point, the trend has been steadily rising. So much so, in fact, Channel 4 will be producing a programme called “The Threesome” later this year, in which people will be matched up for polyamorous relationships. From this, and from our own experiences, it seems as though polyamory, and also our acceptance of it, is on the rise.

What does the law say?

Unfortunately, the law is pretty clear when it comes to polyamory and marriage. Currently, no western countries permit marriage between more than two people. In the eyes of UK law, individuals involved in polyamorous relationships are considered to be no different from people who live together or date. This means there is no legal protection as there would be in a marriage or civil partnerships, even though people in a polyamorous relationships may share finances, children or household responsibilities.

Polygamy, the practice of being legally married to more than one person, is actually illegal can mean prosecution. The only time a polygamous marriage can be legally recognised is when it has been performed in a country where it is allowed. Even then, this only applies to cases of welfare benefits.

What does that mean for people who are polyamorous?

In short, it means that polyamorous relationships aren’t prohibited by law, but nor are they governed by it either. Polyamory may be given rights in the near future, as we’ve seen with the introduction of gay marriage, but for now, there are none.

This is why Arlingsworth recommend making sure that any shared responsibilities within a polyamorous relationship, such as finances, the house, or children, should be discussed and agreed on by all individuals involved. This can provide some legal protection in the form of a written agreement just in case anything were to go wrong.

If you want to know more about polyamory and the law, then feel free to call Arlingsworth on 01273 696962. We also have a weekend number on our contact page. We’re always ready to help.