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Old 06-17-2014, 04:49 PM
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Lightbulb Divorce on principle

I was married to W when it became apparent that M was going to stay a part of my life forever. While W and I both thought of M as an equally "primary" relationship for me, the social and legal status of marriage meant we leaned on a lot of de facto couple privilege. Singles get the shaft in our matricentric society, and single partners of married people get it loaded with social and emotional poison.

We couldn't be out because of M's career. So, while the partnership outside the marriage is often the hidden relationship, in our case *I* was the dirty little secret -- and the fact that I was married was the main dirt.

W and I divorced so that we could be sexual free agents under the law and in society.

How ridiculous that sexual free agency matters to anyone outside the relationship! But so it does. If we'd known umpteen years ago that we were giving up something real, that we would one day want that free agency back, and if we hadn't needed the (totally discriminatory) financial benefits of marriage at the time, we never would have taken the step of getting legally married. Instead, like most people, we too easily entered into a vast and various binding legal contract, unwritten by (and unread by) either of us. And the social consequences of it turned out to feel the most binding.

As we contemplated the divorce, we realized how much easier it is to divorce while we still love each other. With the Affordable Care Act promising universal insurability, our main reason for getting and staying married was, well, not rendered moot, but considerably eased. We obviously agreed on shared parenting for the children, so that part of the agreement was simple. We researched our options, got our ducks in a row, and completed the divorce process as quickly as we were able to. I thought of it more as an "unmarriage" than a divorce -- the fixing of the paperwork to fit what we now knew and wanted.

I'm not suggesting that everyone else take this course of action. But it's something to consider, when marital privilege is sticking in anyone's craw, or governing anyone's ability to be openly associated with each other.

If the marriage (or difficulty of divorce) is what's keeping us together, well, that's a whole 'nuther issue. Or if someone is using the legal marriage as a last-resort sense of control over the meta relationships -- "legally married to" trumps sleeping with, living with, and even having children with. In those cases, divorce is more obviously a good option (IMHO), but it's probably already beyond the kind of amicable thing I'm talking about.

We are content that we quit while we were ahead, and now we can grow old together without anyone else sticking their nose in and saying we must or mustn't, with this partner or that.
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Old 06-18-2014, 02:18 AM
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I am impressed! It is very difficult to go against the societal grain so boldly and do what is logically best. The indoctrination runs so very deep, that even knowing better, people often cave to the emotional programming.
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Old 06-18-2014, 06:19 AM
InfinitePossibility InfinitePossibility is offline
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I wholeheartedly applaud you. It is nice to see somebody taking steps to deal with the inequity that legal marriage can cause in poly relationships.

I have never married and won't - I object to it too much on basically the grounds that you laid out.
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Old 06-18-2014, 03:06 PM
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Form an LLC. Same benefits, less of the annoying aspects mentioned above.
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Old 06-18-2014, 03:28 PM
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There was a discussion or two here, awhile back, about divorcing to level the playing field for all partners, if people are truly committed to an egalitarian approach to polyamory. I seem to recall it being a rather threatening idea to a few unicorn hunters, of course, but I thought it a brave and logical proposal. Kudos to you for taking such steps!

I was always anti-marriage until I met someone and gave in to the fantasy. I am now in the process of divorcing but it was not my choice and the painful process began before I embraced polyamory. I do know that I will not likely ever marry again. I am going to steal your phrase "sexual free agent" if anyone asks me why not!

Thanks for starting this topic - I hope Marcus chimes in, as what you did seems to me to be the epitome of "relationship anarchy" andd he always has some compelling and thought-provoking things to say about that.
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Old 06-19-2014, 12:02 AM
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Default Marriage = Barrier to Exit

Quote:
Originally Posted by SlowPoly View Post
If the marriage (or difficulty of divorce) is what's keeping us together, well, that's a whole 'nuther issue.
For me, this is a central talking point regarding marriage pros and cons.
1. Longevity assumption
2. Barriers to exit/change a relationship
People are adaptive machines, we encounter stimuli and adjust our viewpoints and actions according to our genes and previous stimuli; we are problem solvers, growing and learning as we go through our lives. This strongly suggests that our decisions regarding previously encountered environmental stimuli will change as we mature. This basically means that the person we are when we get married "for life" is not necessarily the person we are going to be 3, 10, 20 years from now... in fact, it suggests the opposite.

Once a significant enough change between the paths/personalities/viewpoints of the married parties comes up, now there is the issue of how to deal with it. When people who are dating discover they are no longer compatible they just break up (speaking from a monogamous point of view), pack their stuff, and move out. When life partners make this discovery it's a bit more complicated in that they need to figure out how to handle mortgage, kids, etc. For a married couple it can involve all of the other complications to part ways PLUS the state now has a vested interest in how you are allowed to break up. This is an added barrier to exit.

In my opinion a relationship should live or die based solely on its merit. When there is a legal contract involved we necessarily have a new barrier to exit. In order for me to feel like I am in a functional and purely voluntary relationship I want to make "getting out" as easy as possible. Why would I want to build a barrier between my partner and getting the hell away from me if that's what they want to do?

I want partners who want to associate with me. I want to make it easy for partners to end or change our association. This is the only way I can imagine encouraging a healthy association to flourish. Marriage creates the opposite of a healthy situation for me.
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Old 06-19-2014, 04:55 PM
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Can I just say how refreshing it is to have someone understand?

We didn't announce the divorce, but when W and I had a reason to tell someone, we would explain it calmly and rationally, interspersed with confirmations of our continuing love and mutual support. We got responses of alarm, sadness, and frustration that the marriage was ending - even though nothing but the legal contract was ending! It was like we were spoiling everyone's view of us walking together by leaving the shackles behind.

The kids understood best of anyone, I think. "You did this when? We didn't notice. And nothing's going to change? Okay. Why are we talking about this?"

Thanks for the affirmation, and I hope other folks who are considering such a thing realize they aren't alone.
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Mitch ('M') • life partner • expectant co-parent • former LDR
Woof ('W') • life partner • co-parent • former spouse
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Old 06-19-2014, 06:59 PM
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I'm curious how things like child custody and/or support were determined and how you managed that. Also, who claims the kids on their taxes?

I'd also be concerned about marital property and how that is split. Who "legally" owns your house, vehicles, financial accounts, etc? And if you were to split up permanently how could you both be reasonably assured of an equitable split of the assets you have built together
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Old 06-19-2014, 07:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cuppycake View Post
I'm curious how things like child custody and/or support were determined and how you managed that.
We wrote up a plan that gave us equally shared custody (with language about our mutual commitment to generosity about schedule changes, and our expectation that we would spend time together with the kids as well. The support agreement complied with the state requirements for support, and we convinced the judge that we were completely in accord on it. Through all of this we did consult knowledgeable experts, and an attorney helped us with the paperwork and judicial process.

The fact that the state would get an arbitrary say in what happened to our kids (and could literally require anything of us, in the interest of best serving their needs) was the hardest thing to swallow in this whole affair. But ultimately we trusted that we would be seen as fit and prepared co-parents, and we were. We obviously did not mention anything about our sex lives or lifestyle philosophies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cuppycake View Post
Also, who claims the kids on their taxes?
Our agreement provides for that, and if we agree, we can stray from that it if it makes sense. The IRS has rules to allow for either parent to claim dependents, as best benefits the entire family financially. That's definitely not the hardest part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cuppycake View Post
I'd also be concerned about marital property and how that is split. Who "legally" owns your house, vehicles, financial accounts, etc?
The divorce decree includes a property settlement agreement, in which we split our assets in a way that was fair to us. We each got the vehicle we drive, the clothes we wear, the shit we generally have in our own possession. We each kept the retirement accounts that were already in our own names. That was actually an interesting thing to value apportion. It seemed fairest that retirement savings (and earnings on those savings) from before we committed to each other should go to the person who had accumulated them. Then anything saved by either of us (and earnings on those savings) since we'd been together should be split down the middle, since we'd both been supporting the family, even when one was not working outside the home. It turned out that our calculated shares of the overall retirement pot were so close to what we had in our own names already that it wasn't worth splitting anything or changing names. Non-retirement accounts and debts we split equally. The house was not an issue, but I'm sure it would be for other couples, and how to decide how to own it would certainly be on a case by case basis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cuppycake View Post
And if you were to split up permanently how could you both be reasonably assured of an equitable split of the assets you have built together
We actually did transfer everything of significant value from joint ownership to our own names (mine having changed back to my birth name in the same decree), and we agreed (before the judge) that it was an equitable split. Chances are one of us could still screw the other over some minor assets (a computer? the old vehicle we didn't bother re-titling?) or play shenanigans with the account we both pay into for household and kids' expenses, but that's limited by how much is in there at one time.

Honestly, we both did a damn good job of partner selection way back when, so even if we do become incompatible in every way down the road, we know we won't screw each other. I never have understood how someone could see a new partner through a divorce, watch them get nasty and irrational in that process, perhaps even encourage it, and then marry that person. My typical advice to people getting married is, "Only marry someone you'd want to divorce." We definitely did that. But I wouldn't do it all over again.
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SlowPoly • vee hinge • living between two homes

Mitch ('M') • life partner • expectant co-parent • former LDR
Woof ('W') • life partner • co-parent • former spouse
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  #10  
Old 06-19-2014, 09:30 PM
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Sounds like how my state (NH) handles divorce as well. My ex and I drew up our own paperwork, and only had to meet with the judge because one thing wasn't clear to him. No lawyer or mediator fees (just filing fees), and we each transferred ownership as we agreed (filing quitclaim deeds and swapping car titles). Done.

Other states require a wait period (I know RI does this), and your mileage may vary wildly depending upon where you live.
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