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Terisa Greenan and her boyfriend, Matt, are enjoying a rare day of Seattle sun, sharing a beet carpaccio on the patio of a local restaurant.

Matt holds Terisa's hand, as his 6-year-old son squeezes in between the couple to give Terisa a kiss.

Custody battles among poly parents are not uncommon; the most public of them was a 1999 case in which a 22-year-old Tennessee woman lost rights to parent her daughter after outing herself on an MTV documentary.

Anecdotally, research shows that children can do well in poly families—as long as they're in a stable home with loving parents, says Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist at Georgia State University, who is conducting the first large-scale study of children of poly parents, which has been ongoing for a decade.

If Scott starts feeling neglected, he can call the woman he's been dating casually on the side.

Everyone in this group is heterosexual, and they insist they never sleep with more than one person at a time.

Twelve years ago, she started dating Scott, a writer and classical-album merchant.

But because academia is only beginning to study the phenomenon—Sheff's study is too recent to have drawn conclusions about the children's well-being over time—there is little data to support that notion in court.

Today, the nonprofit Polyamory Society posts a warning to parents on its Web site: If your Poly Family has children, please do not put your children and family at risk by coming out to the public or by being interviewed [by] the press!

"There have always been some loud-mouthed ironclads talking about the labors of monogamy and multiple-partner relationships," says Ken Haslam, a retired anesthesiologist who curates a polyamory library at the Indiana University-based Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

"But finally, with the Internet, the thing has really come about." With polyamorists' higher profile has come some growing pains.

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