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Same-Sex Divorce Still Not the Same as Heterosexual Dissolutions

Nov. 16, 2017

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court extended legal protections and allowed same-sex couples to enter into valid marriages. Unfortunately, that ruling applied to the joining of two lives and did not address the issues that some couples are discovering in the event they decide to file for a same-sex divorce. New York has its own laws regarding these divorces, and it may be beneficial to seek information on how the state laws will apply in a given situation.

The legalization of these marriages applied at the federal level, and at the time of the decision, more than a dozen states still had laws that prohibited these marriages. States that recognized these relationships may automatically give credit for the number of years that a couple was together when it comes time to decide on the division of assets and whether alimony will be paid. In the states where these marriages were not considered valid, even if a couple had spent more than 10 years in a committed relationship, a divorce court may only consider the 2015 date as a starting point of the union.

This could severely limit the rights of either spouse when it comes to spousal support as well as other financial considerations. Some of these former couples may also have to struggle to establish the rights to continue a relationship with any children that the couple may have been raising. While there may be some circumstances — such as a legal second-parent adoption — which may grant parenting rights, many states may not recognize a non-birth parent’s relationship with a child.

Additionally, in states where a couple first entered into a civil union in lieu of a legal marriage, the former spouses may need to legally sever both relationships in order to be entirely free of their former partner. While many states are working to revise their laws regarding many of these issues, New York residents who are seeking a same-sex divorce may wish to seek more information concerning their rights and protections under the current laws. A seasoned family law attorney can provide guidance and assistance throughout the process.

Source: CNBC, “Same-sex divorce poses complications for some splitting couples“, Sarah O’Brien, Nov. 13, 2017