Sister Wives star Christine Brown considers herself divorced from Kody Brown after announcing their split in November 2021, although they were never legally married. However, Michael J. Higdon — Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law at University of Tennessee College of Law — explains that “there is no such thing as a polygamous divorce,” exclusively to In Touch.
“A person can only have one legal spouse, and that is true in every state,” Higdon, who has written specifically about polygamous marriage and monogamous divorce, says.
Kody, 53, started his polygamous journey when he spiritually and legally married first wife Meri Brown in 1990. Kody spiritually wed second wife Janelle Brown in 1993, third wife Christine in 1994 and fourth wife Robyn Brown spiritually in 2010. In 2014, Kody divorced Meri, 51, and legally married Robyn so he could adopt her three children from a past marriage. He remains spiritually married to Meri and Janelle after Christine, 49, left him in 2021.
“Now, a person may have multiple religious ceremonies with more than one person, but the law will only recognize that person as having one spouse at a time,” Higdon notes about Kody. “Thus, the only divorce that can take place is between those two legal spouses. In addition, every state recognizes no-fault divorce, meaning that if either of those two people wants a divorce, they can get one.”
Sister Wives fans may recall the Brown family fled Utah back in 2011 due to the state’s strict laws against polygamy, which led to their relocation to Las Vegas, Nevada. Kody and his wives, as well as their respective children, later moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2018. Kody, Janelle, Meri and Robyn are all still based in Flagstaff while Christine moved back to Utah with her children after her split from Kody.
Now that Christine and Kody are no longer together, fans have been curious about how they can uncouple after being spiritually married for 27 years. Their son, Paedon, was previously asked about the same subject in December 2021, just weeks after the former couple confirmed her choice to leave.
“Is there a divorce equivalent in polygamy for spiritual marriages? Can you unmarry?” one social media user asked the 23-year-old online. Paedon replied, “Yes, you marry through the church, and you can leave through the church as well.”
Christine also shed light on the matter during the season 16 finale of Sister Wives, which aired on January 23, revealing she went through a divorce process that exists in the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) church.
“You can leave a marriage in our church,” she said. “If it’s a marriage like mine and Kody had, where it’s just a spiritual marriage, then they release you spiritually and you go through them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just between me and God.”
Higdon clarifies the legal side of that to In Touch, noting, “If someone in a polygamous ‘marriage’ wants to leave the ‘marriage’ and yet that person is not recognized as a legal spouse, they could conceivably have some other remedies — for instance through a cohabitation contract or the putative spouse doctrine, but there is no such thing as a polygamous divorce.”
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