Polyamorous relationships are relatively new on the relationship landscape. While it should be self-evident that polyamorous relationships have always existed in one form or another, the public declaration of such is new. Because of this, there are financial self-protection measures that polyamorous people need to consider before entering into a cohabitating relationship.
Under the law (Canada), one marital or common-law spouse is protected when their partner dies. For other partners in the relationship, they receive no specific consideration. These partners do not exist under the law. Furthermore, if a cornerstone member of the relationship dies or moves on (perhaps the linkage in a ‘V’ relationship), the relationship could unravel for the remaining members.
What can people do to protect themselves, their children and their interests:
- Create a will if you have partners that are not legally protected. Your will is your own personal and private property. Who you name in your will is simply no one’s business but your own. Consider the individuals in your relationship. Are there some members who have high earning potential that do not need extra support (particularly while they are grieving)? Distributing funds and property equally amongst members has the potential to cause disaster for those with ‘longer tenure’. Polyamorous relationships require communication. The same is true regarding your will; add explanations of how items were distributed if you think it will help.
- Have your name added to bills. This is particular to individuals joining an existing relationship. If your name is added to household bills (at a minimum), this creates a paper trail of your residence(s) and contributions to the home. If a relationship ends, this information can be used to demonstrate your worth in the relationship and what you deserve to take with you (compensation).
- Document agreements regarding payments, duties and money. All of these items are hot button issues in many relationships. By documenting agreements it provides a road map for the future. Partner A may make the most money, Partner B is unemployed but handles cleaning and Partner C may work 50 hours a week for little pay. It would be unreasonable to ask Partner C to come home and clean the house when Partner B has no scheduled plans. For many, they are willing to let one partner stop working if it means no more shared household duties.
- Create an agreement regarding the division of shared estate if the relationship ends. Depending on the longevity of the relationship this may become a moot point; however, this is of particular concern for individuals joining an existing relationship. For example, Partner C decides to move in with Partner A & Partner B. Partner C has to sell some of her or his furniture because of space concerns. 1 year later the relationship ends and Partner C has no furniture to take to their new home. In this case the agreement should cover compensating Partner C the cost of replacing the furniture (i.e. the amount received in exchange for the furniture sold).
These items may make polyamorous relationships seem financially dangerous. The truth is, all relationships are financially (and emotionally) dangerous. Having documentation in place simply makes transitions easier!