What Rights Do Throuples Have In New York? Everything You Need to Know


Polyamorous and throuple relationships have become increasingly common over the past few decades. Many have claimed that adults in consenting, multi-partner arrangements should have the same rights as married couples. Thankfully, the legal recognition and protection of throuple and other polyamorous marriages is expanding, albeit slowly.

If you're involved in or considering a polyamorous marriage, understanding your rights and protections is crucial. While laws are ever-changing — going both backward and forward — an experienced family law attorney can help you understand what laws apply to your situation. Let’s take a look at what New York law says about throuple marriage and what legal protections may be available to you and your partners at this time.

What Is a Throuple?

Throuples fall under the broader umbrella of polyamory. A throuple is a long-term, committed relationship between three people in which all partners are intimately and romantically involved with one another. This is different from a threesome, which is a casual and predominantly sexual relationship.

A throuple is also not the same as polygamy, where one person has two or more spouses.

Policies are still expanding and changing to include (and sometimes disclude) throuples from legal protections. Let’s discuss the current standing of throuple marriages in New York.

New York Judge Rules in Favor of Throuple Relationships - 2022

If you’re involved in a New York throuple, you’ll be happy to know that in the recent case of West 49th St., LLC v. O’Neill, the judge found that throuples have some of the same legal protections as married couples.

This October 2022 case arose when a person involved in a throuple sought the same legal protections to take over a rent-stabilized lease as a traditional spouse would have. Here are the facts of the case:

  • Scott Anderson, Markyus O'Neill, and Robert Romano were in a throuple relationship.
  • Anderson and O'Neill lived together in a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City.
  • Anderson passed away, and O'Neill tried to renew the lease.
  • The apartment manager denied O'Neill the right to renew the lease, stating that he was a "non-traditional family member."
  • O'Neill took the landlord to court, where Judge Karen May Bacdayan ruled in O'Neill's favor.

Judge Bacdayan stated that because the definition of family is expanding, monogamous relationships are no longer the only relationships entitled to legal protection. She pointed to a foundational case — Braschi v. Stahl Assocs. Co. (1989) — as evidence that legal protections for people involved in non-traditional family-like relationships exist, even outside of those awarded to gay marriages.

Bacdayan also noted that it is now possible for children to have more than two legal parents. Even outside a polyamorous relationship, children can have close parent relationships with biological, adopted, and step-parents — so where do we draw the line on legal parental rights?

This groundbreaking decision posed the idea that throuples and polyamorous relationships shouldn’t be exempt from protections previously available only to married couples.

While we don’t yet know whether other courts and policymakers will confirm or expand Judge Bacdayan’s ruling, this case may be a harbinger of good news for you and your partners. For the time being, at least, it looks like you have the same non-eviction protections that would be available to a married couple.

Are Throuple Marriages Legal in New York?

Polygamy (marrying more than one person) is currently illegal in all 50 states. While some states, including New York, have begun offering protections for polyamorous relationships, more than two people cannot yet enter a legal marriage.

Still, you and your partners can officiate and solidify your relationship in a non-legally binding commitment ceremony and you can enter into a 3-person contract, such as a Cohabitation Agreement, related to your living arrangements, sharing of finances and other aspects of your relationship

What Rights Do You Have in a Throuple Marriage?

Because throuple marriages are not yet legal anywhere in the United States, if you’re involved in a throuple relationship in New York state, you and your partners need to understand what legal protections you have.

If your relationship includes a married couple and an unmarried third partner, that third partner may neither qualify for all of the rights and protections enjoyed by the married couple nor may they have the same legal obligations such as the obligation to divide assets with the other partners or pay spousal support.

The law is currently in flux, so be sure to contact an experienced New York family law attorney if you have specific questions about your situation.

Can Throuples Share Parental Rights?

In the now-landmark case of Dawn M. v. Michael M. (2017), the Suffolk County Supreme Court established custodial rights of a non-biological parent in a three-partner polyamorous relationship.

The three partners, a married opposite-sex couple and another woman who was the child’s biological mother lived together and shared parenting responsibilities. When the non-biological mother filed for divorce from the child’s father, the court granted custodial rights because the child had grown up regarding all three as his parents.

For assistance establishing and sharing parental rights between three parents, contact a family law attorney.

How Can Our Family Law Attorneys Help?

The policies and legal protections for throuple relationships are still blurry and changing. If you’re looking for an experienced attorney to guide you and give your family the support you need, call our team at Vacca Family Law Group.

Contact us today at 646-798-4740 to schedule your free introductory call to discuss how to secure rights and obligations in your relationship.