NYC Court Opens the Door to Establishing Family Law Rights for Polyamorous Partners
es in society and culture are typically followed by responsive changes in the law. This occurred, for example, when New York and other states legalized same-sex marriage. Eventually, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Now, a ruling from a New York City court has raised questions about whether legal rights traditionally associated with marriage will be extended to members of relationships involving more than two adults.
The case in question stems from the never-ending quest to find and keep affordable apartments in Manhattan. In West 49th Street, LLC v. O’Neill, a landlord sought to evict holdover tenant Markyus O’Neill from a rent-stabilized apartment after the death of Scott Anderson, who was the tenant of record. At the time of his death, Anderson was married to Robert Romano, with whom he had a 25-year relationship. However, Anderson and Romano did not live together. O’Neill claimed to have had a committed romantic relationship with Anderson, with whom he shared the apartment, though this was disputed by Romano and the landlord.
In 1989, long before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere, New York’s highest court held that same-sex partners in a committed relationship could have the same rights to remain in an apartment as married spouses. Though Romano clearly would have been able to stay in Anderson’s rent-stabilized apartment had he lived there, the landlord said O’Neill could not legally have the same rights because this right could only extend to one partner.
However, Judge Karen Bacdayan of the Civil Court of New York City ruled that the law relating to holdover tenants could be expanded to non-traditional households, including those involving polyamorous relationships. Her order gave O’Neill the chance to demonstrate that his relationship with Anderson was close enough to give him the right to stay in the rent-stabilized apartment, despite the fact that Anderson was married to someone else.
Expansion of family law rights to multi-partner relationships is gaining traction in many different states. Though legal marriages involving three or more adults might not be around the corner, there could be changes in the way health insurance, hospital visiting rights, custody arrangements and other matters are given legal recognition for people living a polyamorous lifestyle. Whether you’re in a nontraditional relationship or not, when you have a question about a domestic legal matter, it is important to discuss your concerns with an experienced attorney who is cognizant of the latest developments in New York law.
Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. represents clients across Nassau and Suffolk counties in divorce proceedings and other family law matters. For an appointment regarding your particular situation, please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.