At The Firm for Men we respect our clients because we maintain strictly professional relationships with them; we are not compelled to live with their choices and decisions. This matters when we have clients whose personal choices do not always jive with our own, and that is absolutely okay. Take clients who are hoping to end an open marriage; it is not a relationship we would pursue for ourselves, but we are not judging. How your open marriage affects your divorce depends on how you treated each other within the marriage.
Open Marriage, Defined
Monogamy is the legally accepted form of marriage in Virginia; one person marries another person, and no more. You can have serial monogamists, yes; they marry, divorce, marry someone else, divorce. You can have swan marriages, in which two folks mate for life. You cannot legally have polygamy (married to more than one person at a time, even if you “forgot”), not even in Utah. Some states seem to have a bigger issue with polygamy than bestiality, to be blunt. New Jersey needed until 2015 to close that little loophole, and it is still legal in 10 other states. Though, we are delighted to say, not in Virginia!
An open marriage has nothing (nothing!) to do with polygamy or bestiality. It means you are wedded to a spouse but are free to pursue sexual relationships with other people. “Free” is an ill-defined word, and many couples in open marriages struggle to define exactly what they mean.
Issues in Open Marriages
Some spouses in open marriages have no issues with one-night stands and dalliances in which they bounce from partner to partner. The problem arises when, say, your wife keeps going back to the same guy. You get jealous; you did not put a lot of emotional work into your little rendezvous, saving your true, heartfelt connections for your spouse.
If the two of you do not communicate extremely clearly, and often, about how you each are feeling, the type of marriage you have will not matter. You can claim an open marriage, closed marriage, slightly ajar marriage — whatever, you are headed for sad times. Your marriage is built not around sex, but around trust and commitment, so if those two qualities erode, the sex can be an endless circus of weirdness without being satisfying.
Why Do Open Marriages End?
Even open marriages come to an end. Generally open marriages do not end because of jealousy or a spouse falling in love with a one-time lover. Just as in tightly joined marriages, the open marriage decays from other sources of tension and mistrust:
- Financial issues
- Disagreements about the children
- Career stressors
- Unmet expectations
Each marriage is unique, as will be the reasons a couple feels compelled to divorce. The openness of the marriage is seldom, alone, the cause of the divorce.
If you had an open marriage and failed to communicate, honor each other, or respect decisions, you may be pursuing a divorce. What then? How do you justify divorcing someone you gave free rein to, so she could “sleep around?”
An Open Marriage May Result in a No Fault Divorce
An open marriage essentially destroys one of the fault grounds for divorce in Virginia. You cannot simultaneously claim you had an open marriage and accuse your wife of adultery (or sodomy or buggery). Such an accusation will simply be laughed out of court (no, Virginia has no actual, paid court jesters, but you get the idea).
This leaves the two of you to part ways without fault, by mutual assent. You can do this by living apart for six months (a year if you have children), then filing for divorce. Generally, three months after your attorney files, with no argument from your spouse, you two will be divorced.
Fault Reasons for Divorce in an Open Marriage
The three most compelling reasons to claim fault in a divorce are off the table, but other reasons can exist that straitjacket you into a constructive leaving (divorcing for valid reasons):
- Cruelty, physical or emotional abuse — she torments you, harms you or threatens you
- Abandonment — She skipped out on you, open marriage and all; she is at fault
- Felony conviction — If she is headed to the pokey for a year or longer, you can divorce her on fault grounds
- Financial abuse — If she controls the pursestrings and paychecks, essentially controlling you financially, she is at fault
So How Does Your Open Marriage Affect Your Divorce?
The simple answer is, not at all, unless you turned to an open marriage as a way to “save” your traditional marriage. If she said, “Go for it,” but secretly kept damning data about your dalliances, she might try to use that to claim you were at fault. Such a tactic will probably not get very far, since all you need to do is show she had agreed to the open marriage.
Afterwards, the divorce proceeds as with any other divorce; you split property, you decide on child custody and visitation, and you go your separate ways. You may have to make some awkward decisions about the “other” folks who were in your circle of openness — who gets to keep this friend or that friend? Will those friends even want to continue seeing you, now that the mystique of the open marriage is gone?
We are Not Judges … But we Are Attorneys for Men Only!
At The Firm for Men we encourage you to meet with us to discuss your divorce from your open marriage. We are not here to judge; we are here to represent your best interests and protect you from harm. Call our offices at 757-383-9184 or contact us today. We’re located in the heart of Virginia Beach, but just a short drive from Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth! If you’re looking for a family attorney for men, you’ve come to the right place!