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What are Conjugal Rights?

By Matt Brady
Updated May 16, 2024
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In broad terms, conjugal rights are the affections and privileges enjoyed between two people in marriage. The word "conjugal" often brings up sexual connotations, and while such relations are certainly a part of a marital relationship, these rights also include all other aspects of affection and companionship, including co-habitation and joint property rights. Legally speaking, the disruption of marital privileges by a third party, called alienation of affections, may be grounds for a civil suit, but not often a criminal prosecution. Conjugal rights is thought of most often perhaps in regard to prison inmates, who in some countries and regions are allowed conjugal visits in order to promote healthy relationships between spouses.

The violation of conjugal rights may be grounds for a civil suit. For example, if one spouse commits adultery, and the other spouse wishes to file a divorce, the split may cause conflicts of interest as to who retains child custody, property and possessions, or receives damages. Since the situation is noncriminal, it would have to be meted out in civil court, where it would be decided whose conjugal rights were violated and how the situation ought to be settled.

Not all prisons recognize conjugal rights. The issue over whether to permit conjugal visits is often decided on a regional or state level. Some states allow conjugal visits, but only in certain prisons. Maximum security prisons, for example, often prohibit inmates from making any contact with the outside world, no matter the reason. Most prisons that do allow conjugal visits require that a marital relationship exist between the inmate and visitor; common law marriage relationships are not allowed conjugal visits in many prisons. If a prison does allow conjugal visits, it's fairly routine for a certain amount of privacy and time in a special lodging to be permitted. When prisons allow spouses time together, it's in the hope that by retaining healthy relationships with loved ones, inmates will lead healthier lives and decrease their chances of repeat offending.

The issue of conjugal rights has been a hot topic within the gay rights movement. Traditionally, same-sex partners have not been allowed many of the conjugal rights that heterosexual partners enjoy. These rights include hospital visits, joint property rights and tax benefits. Throughout the world, certain regions have begun to permit many of the same rights of marriage to same-sex partners as have been traditionally reserved for heterosexual couples. Some prisons have also begun to allow same-sex conjugal visits.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By sunshine31 — On Apr 01, 2011

@Mutsy - I agree with you. I also understand the legal definition of marriage debate. I understand that people in domestic partnerships want a more legal union. I think that civil unions could give marriage rights to same sex couples that are unmarried while restoring the purity of marriage between a man and a women.

I think that it is a good compromise that can offer insurance benefits along with the right to inherit property for same sex couples.

By mutsy — On Mar 29, 2011

I think that money problems along with adultery are the biggest causes for divorce. There was a case that I read about in North Carolina in which a wife sued her husband's mistress and won.

In fact she won a multimillion dollar verdict. Good for her. I think that if you agree to marry someone you should also respect the institution and stay faithful or get a divorce. This way everyone leaves the marriage with their self respect in tact. This is especially true if you have children because your actions will be what they will often repeat later in life.

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