How do sister wives and husbands share or split property?

Oct 1 '2021, 11:04 AM | By Chris

In a conventional, monogamous marriage, divorce and death are somewhat straightforward. Often, the property both spouses acquired during the marriage is split evenly. Everything else each spouse already had before the marriage or other assets they inherited is not shared. This practice, known as community property law, is present in just nine states across the US.

So when a couple files for divorce, sorting out property and assets is generally an uncontested process, especially if they have a prior agreement like a prenuptial. But what happens in polygamous relationships where there may be three, four, or five people involved? What happens to a sister wife if their husband dies and she was not legally married to him?

Bigamy, the act of marrying someone while you’re already married, is illegal in every state. Consequently, polygamists marry just one wife (on paper, anyway) and then “spiritually marry” sister wives who later join their home. When a primary spouse passes away – aka someone who was the original legal marriage agreement — the process gets tricky.

Legally, most assets and properties belong to the person they were married to, and not the sister wives who came later on. In many cases, a husband might marry and remarry sister wives just to obtain certain legal rights for the wife and family. For instance, Kody Brown of TLC’s Sister Wives divorced his first wife Meri and married his fourth wife Robyn so he could legally adopt Robyn’s children.

Certain benefits are born from legal marriage, too. Insurance benefits, tax deductions, and even work leave benefits come to mind. Polygamists are deprived of these basic rights because the system does not recognize the validity of their relationship. It does not fit the man-marries-woman framework that property laws cater to.

But to answer the original question, only a sister wife who was legally married to her husband has a right to any property or asset. Everything else must be settled personally or through lengthy court processes which differ by state.

Do modern sister wives live together?

There’s no one-size-fits-all for living arrangements, especially in polygamous relationships. There are, however, trends we can observe. Here are some common living habits a sister wife might experience.

Everyone lives under the same roof.

Often, a large house with sizable outdoor areas is preferred. With the stigma surrounding the polygamist lifestyle, many families might seek out more suburban or rural areas.

For city dwellers, younger partners, or people with no kids, living in an apartment or small house may be the best solution.

Each wife and/or family lives separately.

This might be true for extra-large families that simply need their own space. Clashing schedules, strong personalities, and different work locations all come into play. Families may meet as often as once a day or a few times a week, and special holidays are a big deal.

Each sister wife visits their primary partner in turns.

In cases where there is a “home base” plus separate homes, families may take turns spending time together. This could be a weekly arrangement to ensure every sister wife (and children, if applicable), receives the same amount of quality time with the main spouse.

A sister wife lives on her own but visits often.

Not every polyamorist wants to live together or spend every waking moment together with his or her partners. You and your partner might work out an arrangement where a sister wife stays over every weekend. After all, you are all adults with separate lives.

Everyone lives in a commune.

This is far less common than other types of modern arrangements, but it does exist. In some pockets across the US, commune living is possible. Several families live in a village-type community where the rules aren’t so rigid. 

The exact relationships between adults may be undefined and are up to the consenting individuals to determine — if they wish to do so. A benefit in commune living is receiving more help with childcare, utilizing a better support system, and experiencing less pressure stemming from social discrimination.

The future of property laws in plural marriages

As you can see, dividing properties in plural marriages may not be so simple. Already, you have the issue of partners not being legally married but are still just as committed as a couple holding a marriage certificate.

As Diane J. Klein states in the article “Plural Marriage and Community Property Law,” there must be “...the introduction of new marital property concepts” if polygamists are to receive the same benefits as everyone else. This will help streamline property division processes in the event of death or divorce.

A recent survey found that one out of five adults in the US thinks polygamy is “morally acceptable” so social opinion is already shifting. However, legal overhauls may still need decades of work to fully serve sister wife and polygamous arrangements. What do you think is the next best step for lawmakers?

Published By: Christopher Alesich 

Matchmakers Inc:


Oct 12 '2021, 12:28 PM
There are many ways to bake a cake, but I say set your marriage/s up like an L.L.C this way everything is owned by that company not one person. Everyone will set up their Company differently that fits their needs, you can get group benefits and discounts and write offs as a L.L.C.There are many ways to bake a cake, but I say set your marriage/s up like an L.L.C this way everything is owned by that company not one person. Everyone will set up their Company differently that fits...See more
Dec 21 '2021, 9:22 AM
Thats a pretty good idea
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