Human Rights Issues

Lessons from Islamic Polygamy

By December 13, 2016 No Comments

A Case for Expanding the American Concept of Surviving Spouse so as to Include De Facto Polygamous Spouses

While polygamy. is illegal in the United States, forms of it are still practiced either overtly, pursuant to religious traditions, or covertly, by the maintenance of two or more family units. As a result, any claims, disputes, or abuses that arise in the context of de facto polygamous unions remain irremediable. My focus, in this Article, is not to advocate that polygamy should be legally recognized. Nor is it my purpose to debate the viability or of polygamy. Instead, I am concerned with affording legal remedies for vulnerable individuals living and operating in de facto polygamous unions. In light of the thousands of individuals living in some form of multi-party unions, I propose that it is imperative to construct adequate legal options remedies for the parties involved in these unions. In this Article, I evaluate how a women-centric interpretation of the Qur’anic treatment of Islamic polygamy might help us assess how to best protect American women involved in de facto polygamous unions. In addition, I advocate a redefinition of the concept of the surviving spouse in American estate distribution will help to legally protect de facto spouses in the inheritance context. Finally, I further propose that the common law marriage doctrine be used to help prove the existence of de facto polygamous unions.

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