Sunday, October 9, 2011

Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 8: Summary of District of Columbia Laws

Author's Note:

I'm shocked... DC has almost nothing on adultery and bigamy, even less than California! Irony since I'm flying out there next weekend.

- Jason


Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 8: Summary of District of Columbia Laws


District of Columbia (DC) has no laws associated with adultery, beyond that it is an acceptable reason for divorce (District of Columbia State Legislature, 2011a). This limits liability for all non-monogamists and all but eliminates it for swingers and open relationships.


DC’s bigamy laws are among the shortest and most straight-forward that can be found; consisting of only one section of criminal code that references bigamy, which also contains all information relating to its conditions and punishment (District of Columbia State Legislature, 2011b). DC laws define bigamy to consist of only actual marriages, and do not possess a purportation clause (District of Columbia State Legislature, 2011b). Additionally, the only individual(s) liable under DC’s bigamy law is those who actually possess the bigamous marriage, marrying a bigamist is not a condition under DC’s bigamy laws for liability (District of Columbia State Legislature, 2011b). The punishment for bigamy is rather severe however: imprisonment for 2 to 7 years (District of Columbia State Legislature, 2011b).

DC also does not seem to possess any applicable inchoate laws for bigamy, which lifts liability for those associated with a bigamous marriage within a non-monogamous family. Additionally, there does not seem to be any escalating sentences for repeat offences relating to bigamy. All in all, DC’s bigamy laws are very narrow, and non-monogamous friendly.

Cross-Relation between the Laws:

Due to the lack of adultery laws, and a very focused bigamy law without extra provisions affecting it (inchoate & escalating repeat offences), DC possesses among the lowest liability for non-monogamists in the United States. The only liability that non-monogamists can have under these laws is if there exist an actual bigamous marriage, where at least one person in the family is legally married to more than one person, and even then, only they, specifically, are liable.

Non-Monogamous Strategies:

The most straightforward advice that can be given to polyamorous and polyfidelitous families is ‘don’t have a bigamous marriage.’ All liability under bigamy drops away if there isn’t a bigamous marriage. With liability avoided for bigamy laws, there is no criminal law that can affect a polyamorous or polyfidelitous family in DC, and their liability will be on-par as with swingers and open relationships; negligible.


District of Columbia State Legislature. (2011a). Grounds for divorce, legal separation, and annulment. (District of Columbia Official Code 16-904). Washington, DC: District of Columbia State Legislature.

District of Columbia State Legislature. (2011b). Bigamy. (District of Columbia Official Code 22-501). Washington, DC: District of Columbia State Legislature.

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