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Polygamy

Volume 710: debated on Monday 11 May 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 28 April (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 105), what provision for financial and property protection is available as a safety net for multiple wives whose polygamous marriages are not recognised in United Kingdom law. [HL3264]

Where people live together without being legally married, the ordinary law of property, contract and trusts will generally apply.

Parties in a polygamous relationship have the option of entering into a contract to govern their respective shares in property or assign proceeds of an insurance policy. They can choose to draft wills to give some or all of their property to partners or make specific gifts in the event of a death. Legislation also exists to allow claims to be made for maintenance from a deceased partner's estate if sufficient provision has not been made for surviving partners who were being maintained by the deceased at the date of death.

Where title to a property is registered in joint names, there will be a presumption that the parties are entitled to an equal share of the proceeds of any sale. On the death of a joint tenant, the deceased's share of the property will pass to the surviving joint tenants.

It is currently possible for people to assign the proceeds of an insurance policy on their own life to named beneficiaries, and this enables parties in a polygamous relationship to provide funds for the benefit of their fellow partners.

A former partner from a polygamous relationship can apply for maintenance for any children from the polygamous relationship involved under the Child Support Acts and capital provision for the benefit of children may be sought under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 following a breakdown in the relationship.

The strict application of property law may be modified by the law of trusts, to give one party a beneficial interest in property vested in the other where, for example, one party has contributed towards the purchase price.