Minimal changes here. A few years ago I expanded this topic into a short series. Revised 4/13/17.
I wasn’t planning on tackling this topic for a while yet, but I’m afraid I can’t think of anything else to write on about polyam and children right now. Not because there isn’t much more to say, but because of my own life.
As I’ve mentioned before I was recently involved in a custody situation in which polyamory was made an issue. Largely on the basis of polyamory, the children were taken from me and their father (my ex) and given to their grandparents. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to appeal, and couldn’t get it in the time allowed. (I usually stay out of political stuff, just to jaded I guess, but the fact that if you can’t afford to spend several thousand dollars with less than a month’s notice means you can’t appeal, really gives well off folks a massive advantage in the civil ‘justice’ system, IMO.)
The laws regarding polyamory (and other forms of multi-linking) and children vary significantly from state to state, and country to country, but the general summary in the US is this:
With very rare exceptions, child protective services will not involve themselves unless there is clear evidence of neglect or abuse. Even if there are states whose laws allow the children to be taken away solely on the basis of lifestyle, CPS (or whatever name they go by in a given state) rarely cares, because they are overworked dealing with real cases of child abuse, abandonment and other horrors. So, living openly poly will not generally create any risk of losing your children.
If, however, you ever get involved in a custody battle, being polyamorous may put you at a disadvantage. If both parents have previously been involved in polyamorous relationships, and there is no third party, being poly really can’t have an effect (you’re objecting to your ex being in a type of relationship you’ve been in also? Don’t waste my time). If one parent is poly and the other has never been polyam, or if there is a third party involved, than polyamory can hurt you in a custody case. CAN. As PolyMom discussed in her blog several months ago, and I have experienced myself, it is fully possible for poly to brought up in a custody case and utterly ignored (“When I started as a judge back in 19XX, we called this kind of thing having extra resources. I don’t want to hear about it.”)
Being openly poly with children does not need to open you up to legal liabilities or create any risk of losing your children. However, if you do not explore polyamory until after you and your children’s other parent have separated or divorced, and the other parent is not involved in polyamory, you may put yourself at a disadvantage in custody cases. Your two options to avoid this risk are to either be a closet poly, or, if you think your ex may be open minded about poly, to go openly to them, discuss your desire to be polyamorous. If you are open about your lifestyle with them, and they don’t take issue with it immediately, than they will have a hard time trying to take issue with it in the future. Unfortunately, not exposing children to polyamory does not necessarily protect you. Even if your children have no knowledge of your lifestyle, never met any of your partners, etc etc; the fact that you engage in poly may still be seen as evidence that you are an unhealthy influence on your children do to your willingness to engage in polyamory.
The bottom line legally right now is that except in rare states that have specific laws regarding how non-conventional relationships should affect custody decisions, whether or not polyamory can hurt you in a custody case depends entirely on the judge and his or her personal take. If you have a judge who is prejudiced, or simply unaware of the reality of polyamory and the evidence that it is not harmful for children you can be in trouble. If you have a judge who is open minded and not against unconventional relationships, it may not effect the case at all.
(Originally posted January 2012)
As with last Thursday’s post, I’m mostly re-posting this one for the resources. CARAS and NCSF aren’t often able to assist polyam folk directly, but they have some good stuff for educating doctors, psychs, and other professionals you may be dealing with. Looking Through Us is sill up, it’s been on hiatus in recent months but I hope to see it become active again soon. Obviously, I’m still a bit off schedule from March insanity. Hopefully I’ll be back on track by the end of the week. Updated April 2, 2017.
Hey all, sorry for disappearing like that. I got very caught up dealing with the custody case, which is now finished, even if the judge hasn’t given us a decision yet. (I hate waiting.)
I want to thank CARAS and NCSF for all the work they have done educating people about polyamory and alternate sexualities. My children have been seeing a therapist for the stress the custody mess has been causing them, and I had told her about my involvement in polyamory shortly before this mess went to court. She had no issue with the lifestyle, told me that my private choices were just that, and when she was subpoenaed as a witness she told the judge and court that my ‘multiple relationships’ as the lawyer called it, were not in any way bad for my children.
I don’t know if the therapist learned of polyamory through CARAS or NCFS or not, but having the benefit of a medical professional working with my children who is accepting of polyamory has made me that much more aware of how important the work they do is.
I also want to give a shout out to Poly Anna of Looking Through.Us. I was very flattered by the review of this blog that she posted a few weeks ago (one of your favorites? Really?! – I don’t squee, but if I did, I would have). Poly Anna has an ‘Ask PolyAnna’ column on Looking Through.Us, a kind of ‘Dear Abby’ for poly and non-monogamy. She doesn’t get questions often, but when she does she tends to have good advice, and takes the time to go in depth in her answers.
I should be back (mostly) to my regular posting schedule starting on Thursday. I’m afraid the webcomic needs to go on hiatus for a while, because I lost the pen from the drawing tablet, and as bad as my artwork is with the tablet, it is absolutely atrocious using a mouse. As I am in the middle of a massive cleaning spree, I’m hopeful of finding the pen in the next few weeks and getting the comic going again.
(Originally posted December 2011)
I’ve fixed a few typos here and changed one instance of “polies” to “polyam folk.” Otherwise this is exactly as I posted it in the fall of 2011, including signed with a name I no longer use. My ex’s lawyer did in fact print this post out and ask me, while on the witness stand, to read my letter to the judge. Sadly, the judge was exactly as bigoted as I was afraid, and, well, the case ended badly. Though some long term good did come of it. Re-posted (but NOT revised) March 1, 2017.
I have nothing to say about pregnancy today. I’m having a bit of trouble focusing on much of anything at the moment.
You see, the fact that I write this blog is being used against me in a custody case. Posts from this blog have been printed out and brought into hearings to prove that I engage in polyamory and am therefore an unfit parent.
In a few weeks, I will be going into court for the custody trial. A court that will not care about all the research proving that polyamory is a healthy and ethical lifestyle, the published studies by Dr. Elizabeth Sheff, Dr. Geri Weitzman, and so many others. A court that will have no interest in the paper by law professor Ann Tweedy the Michigan University College of Law examining polyamory and its possible status as a sexual orientation and/or embedded personality trait (ie not a choice but a part of a person). A court that will be prejudging me – the root word of prejudice – based on nothing other then an assumption that anything other then monogamy is wrong, even though there is no evidence, no basis, no reason, other then knee-jerk ‘that’s not the way things are supposed to be’ emotional reaction behind the judging.
My saving grace is that for over a year I have only been in a relationship with my fiance, Michael. That I have previously written, on this blog, that that is the only relationship I am in.
Part of me is disgusted at my cowardice. That I am willing to hide behind that fact and not stand up in court and openly denounce their prejudice and hypocrisy. That I am not willing to fight for a lifestyle that is in no way unsafe or dangerous for my children.
But I can’t risk my children. And if the court demands that I live monogamously from now on I will do so.
Because I am judged guilty without benefit of trial.
I’ve seen the arguments in the community about whether polyam folk should push for legal rights, become politically active. So many say that ‘we shouldn’t rock the boat’, that ‘as long as keep our heads down we will be fine’, that ‘there is no point in exposing ourselves’.
Well, the courts will not educate themselves. The laws will not change themselves. And until other people stand up and say this is wrong, the attacks that are being made on me will keep happening to other people.
And what the hell, since I know people are printing out my blog to show the judge:
If you should happen to read this, I will say here that to allow polyamory to be used against me in court, without knowledge of the nature of the lifestyle, or research which has been done on it is wrong. That there is no basis or reason to believe that polyamory is dangerous to my children, and that regardless of anything else, if I did choose to have other relationships when my children are with their father it would not affect them at all and should be nobody’s business but my own and my fiance’s.
Maybe this post will be used against me as well. Will you judge on my beliefs, your Honor? Does my willingness to say openly that there is nothing wrong with alternative lifestyles automatically make me an unfit parent, whether I engage in those lifestyles or not?
I will continue writing this blog, your Honor. I will continue to support everyone’s right to pursuit of happiness and freedom of expression – those grand words that are so often trampled in the cry of ‘shame! immoral! shame!’ with no basis other than the righteous indignation of those who think there is only one right way.
I just wish I was brave enough to stand up in court and say all this there.
For those of you who have been following my messed up custody situation, the returned a decision last week returning custody to my children’s father and ruling that polyamory should not have been used as a reason to take the children away because there was no evidence that poly was harming them in any way. (In fact, though the appeal court doesn’t mention it, there was evidence that poly was NOT harming them, since the kids therapist testified that it was not affecting them.)
On a personal level, this is good news – the kids are away from my parents and back with their father, and I will be getting proper visitation over the summers instead of the measly week I got this year.
On a legal level, the court’s decision is being entered in case law, which means the ruling about poly not being a reason to take the kids is official . For a great review of the decision and what it means legally, check out Nancy Polikoff’s write up.
- Supreme Court rules in lesbian couple’s child custody case (dispatch.com)
- Ohio Mother Loses Custody Of Child Due To Marriage Inequality Amendment (thinkprogress.org)
- Perceptions of Poly- A Mindchaotica Blog (pearlsandpentagrams.wordpress.com)
(Originally posted Sept 2012)