Sister Wives star Christine Brown claimed that she is divorced from her husband Kody Brown, but an expert on polygamous marriage says that’s not possible.
Christine and Kody’s struggles played out during Seasons 15 and 16 of Sister Wives and came to a head last November when Christine publicly announced her split from Kody after more than 25 years of spiritual marriage.
In polygamy, there can only be one legal wife. Meri Brown became Kody’s first legal wife when they wed in 1990. Janelle joined the family in 1993, becoming Kody’s first spiritual wife. Janelle was followed by Christine in 1994 and Robyn in 2010.
Meri later legally divorced Kody in 2014 to allow him to legally wed Robyn in order to adopt her three children from her previous marriage.
Expert speaks on polygamous divorce: ‘There is no such thing’
But now, an expert has weighed in and says that in polygamy, there are no divorces.
As reported by In Touch, Michael J. Higdon — Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law at University of Tennessee College of Law — told the outlet that “there is no such thing as a polygamous divorce.”
Higdon, who has written specifically about polygamous marriage and monogamous divorce, said, “A person can only have one legal spouse, and that is true in every state.”
Because of the law, polygamists can have multiple spiritual marriages, but only their marriage to their legal spouse is recognized.
“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 explained.
When it comes down to it, Christine and Kody can’t be granted a legal divorce. Because Robyn Brown is Kody’s only legal wife, only she and Kody could be granted a legal divorce.
“Thus, the only divorce that can take place is between those two legal spouses,” the Dean continued. “In addition, every state recognizes no-fault divorce, meaning that if either of those two people wants a divorce, they can get one.”
According to Christine, however, although not a legal process, spouses within their faith can be granted a divorce, but it’s handled entirely through their church.
During the Season 16 finale episode of Sister Wives, Christine explained how divorce works in their religion.
“You can leave marriage in our church. 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.”
Christine also admitted to host Sukanya Krishnan that she and Kody are divorced during the tell-all, Sister Wives: One on One.
Sister Wives patriarch Kody Brown says he’s ‘anti-divorce’
As far as Kody is concerned, divorce is off the table. “The idea of divorce seems tragic, seems terrible on my faith. My belief system is kind of anti-divorce, I suppose,” the father of 18 said during the Season 16 finale episode.
According to a source close to the Browns, Kody wouldn’t go through with a divorce within his church, especially because he’s lost his passion for polygamy.
“Kody wouldn’t go through with a spiritual divorce from Christine,” the insider said of Kody. “He left her on her own to make peace with the separation — it was her and God, not her and Kody.”
Although Kody claims he is anti-divorce, he also admitted to feeling a sense of freedom when Christine kicked him out of her bedroom and packed up his belongings in her garage.
Kody admitted after Christine kicked him out, “[I feel] some kind of relief from the burden and the woe of a loveless marriage.”
Neither Kody nor Christine have shared whether they’ve gone through with a divorce within their church. Whether or not their spiritual divorce has been granted, Christine has moved on without Kody in her life and looks to be thriving because of it.
Part two of Sister Wives: One on One airs on Sunday, February 6 at 10/9c on TLC and Discovery+.