Saturday, September 24, 2011

Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 2: Summary of Arizona Laws

Author's Note:

Yes, I skipped Alaska, their website is a nightmare and I can't seem to find an easy way to look through their laws. If anyone's familiar with the Alaska State Legislature website, or where I can find a copy of their laws, please tell me.

- Jason


Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 2: Summary of Arizona Laws


Arizona’s adultery laws are fairly strong, affecting both participating parties (Arizona State Law, 2011j). This gives increased liability to all non-monogamists; for swingers, open relationships and polyamorous families this is reflected in the increased liability that outside partners possess under Arizona law.

One fortunate protection that non-monogamists do have from adultery in Arizona is that adultery charges can only be brought up by an offended partner (Arizona State Law, 2011j). Though this doesn’t eliminate adultery as a liability for non-monogamous families, it does make it so that an outside agency (neighbor, schoolteacher, minister, etc.) can’t initiate any legal proceedings based solely on the non-monogamous lifestyle. There is still liability from within a non-monogamous family however, in that a begrudged partner can use the adultery laws as legal leverage within the family.

Adultery is considered to be a class 3 misdemeanor, a low-level criminal offence, and is punishable with up to thirty days of jail time and/or a fine of up to $500 (Arizona State Law, 2011c; Arizona State Law, 2011e; Arizona State Law, 2011j). As a criminal offence, adultery is subject to any other liability associated with criminal offences, which is beyond the scope of this paper.

Like other states, Arizona has criminal attempt, solicitation and conspiracy laws, as well as the addition of laws covering criminal facilitation. Under solicitation and conspiracy, many different kinds of non-monogamous families, and their partners, could possess liability under these laws. Solicitation would cover direct requests between two parties, such as an outside partner asking for sex with someone with a legal marriage within the family (Arizona State Law, 2011g). Conspiracy is the more dangerous of the two, as conspiracy can cover many, if not all, of the individuals in the family and their outside partners. Activities such as scheduling time and planning trips among multiple partners, if there is sexual activity involved, falls under criminal conspiracy (Arizona State Law, 2011h). As a standard caveat not all individuals within the arrangement need to know of each other to be liable.

Additionally Arizona’s criminal facilitation law serves as a catch-all for who may not be covered under solicitation and/or conspiracy. Facilitation makes liable anyone who assists someone else in committing a criminal offence (Arizona State Law, 2011i), so this could actually extend to people outside of one’s relationship network, such as having a friend drive one to visit an outside partner. Solicitation, conspiracy and facilitation would all be considered a class 3 misdemeanor for adultery, so everyone involved suffers the same level of liability as the individuals directly liable under adultery (Arizona State Law, 2011g; Arizona State Law, 2011h; Arizona State Law, 2011i).

Arizona’s criminal attempt laws are fairly standard, in that it would make individuals in a non-monogamous family, and their partners, liable for even attempting to have a sexual relationship outside of any marriage(s) that exists in the family. The difference here is that attempt would have a reduced liability, as it is considered a petty offence for attempted adultery (Arizona State Law, 2011f). Petty offences do not have jail time, but can have up to a $300 fine liability (Arizona State Law, 2011c; Arizona State Law, 2011e).

Arizona law also possesses escalating punishment for repeat offences on misdemeanors. The escalation is limited to one level, so if there are repeated adultery charges brought up, then it could be treated as a class 2 misdemeanor, subject to up to four months of jail and/or a fine of up to $750 (Arizona State Law, 2011c; Arizona State Law, 2011e).

It is important to remember that an adultery charge cannot be brought up by an individual outside of an affected marriage. This seriously limits the direct liability under these laws, as only problems within the relationship can trigger adultery charges. Adultery is still considered criminal behavior and can be used in support of other legal cases however, such as child custody cases. The extra protection that Arizona law provides non-monogamous families still requires that the family have a clean record in other ways, and that the internal family relationship needs to be smooth, otherwise there is a great deal of liability to be had among all individuals involved, and possibly beyond.


Arizona law is very straightforward in regards to bigamy: Anyone who marries a second spouse while the first is alive is guilty of bigamy, with the only exception being the 5-year abandonment rule (Arizona State Law, 2011k). There is no cohabitation clause in Arizona’s bigamy laws, thus freeing polyamorists and polyfidelitists from the largest potential liability, however the existence of the bigamy law does, as expected, block the expected workaround for the adultery laws.

Bigamy in Arizona is considered a class 5 felony, a mid-level criminal offence. Liability includes prison time between 273 days (3/4ths a year) and 2 years, and a fine up to $150,000. Arizona also has escalating punishments for repeat felony offences, as follows for bigamy: First repeat, 1.5 to 3 years of jail time. Second repeat, 4 to 6 years of jail time. Third repeat, 4 to 7.5 years of jail time (Arizona State Law, 2011a; Arizona State Law, 2011b; Arizona State Law, 2011l).

Cross-Relation between the Laws:

As expected, the combination of adultery and bigamy laws puts some measure of liability on all forms of non-monogamous family, by making multi-person marriages illegal (bigamy laws) and criminalizing sexual contact outside of that two-person union (adultery laws). The challenge comes in with the broad base of liability that the adultery laws can cause to a non-monogamous network. Because of the multitude of criminal support laws (attempt, solicitation, conspiracy, facilitation) there is a great deal of liability to spread around.

Because of the broad-base of people, polyamorists have the most liability under Arizona laws. Since polyamorists can have the most complex networks of individuals, and because there are many variations of criminal support laws, there is a great deal of liability to go around within a polyamorous network. Of course all other forms of non-monogamous relationship also have degrees of liability, however swingers, open relationships and polyfidelity are much less likely to have the complex networks that polyamory does.

Fortunately there are only a few people who can bring an adultery charge on any of these liable individuals: those in legal marriages in the family. This reduces the odds of adultery, or supportive adultery, being brought against any of the liable individuals, however Arizona law still considers it criminal behavior even if it isn’t charged on, so it can be used in other charges or situations, such as a child custody case.

Due to how simple and straight-forward Arizona’s bigamy laws are, the bigamy laws themselves are unlikely to have an effect, unless there is actual bigamous marriage(s) within the family.

Non-Monogamous Strategies:

Arizona’s simple bigamy laws, combined with the requirement that any charges of adultery must come from the affected party only, shift the primary focus of concern for non-monogamists away from the outside world and onto those within the relationship. A disgruntled spouse, or partner who has a spouse, possesses a great deal of inequitable power in the relationship, as any such participants in a non-monogamous arrangement could bring charges amongst almost the entire network. Though this is a problem with non-monogamy in other states, Arizona’s laws focus more attention onto this fact because outside adultery charges cannot be brought against the family, or associated partners. Non-monogamists would be well-advised to pick partners carefully, as anyone who’s involved in a legal marriage and a non-monogamous relationship has a great deal of power with everyone involved in the relationship in some way.

Additionally, because adultery is considered a criminal offence, regardless of whether or not it’s prosecutable, it can still be used to support other charges from outside agents, such as a disgruntled landlord or family member. IT’s important for non-monogamists to either keep their behavior extremely discrete and/or to make sure that they are not doing anything else that would draw a legal gaze on the family.


Arizona State Legislature. (2011a). First time felony offenders; sentencing; definition. (Arizona Code 13-702). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011b). Repetitive offenders; sentencing. (Arizona Code 13-703). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011c). Misdemeanors; sentencing. (Arizona Code 13-707). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011d). Fines for felonies. (Arizona Code 13-801). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011e). Fines for misdemeanors. (Arizona Code 13-802). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011f). Attempt; classification. (Arizona Code 13-1001). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011g). Solicitation; classification. (Arizona Code 13-1002). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011h). Conspiracy; classification. (Arizona Code 13-1003). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011i). Facilitation; classification. (Arizona Code 13-1004). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011j). Adultery; classification; punishment; limitation on prosecution. (Arizona Code 13-1408). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

Arizona State Legislature. (2011k). Bigamy; classification; exception. (Arizona Code 13-3606). Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State Legislature.

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