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Possible complications of same-sex divorces

The Supreme Court's landmark decision in 2015 finally resolved the issue of same-sex marriages and made them a reality throughout the nation.

With that happy reality, there also comes a correspondingly sad one: same-sex divorces. If you are contemplating a divorce from your same-sex spouse, there are some issues you may need to consider.

What could complicate your ability to get a divorce?

Although it is now easy to obtain a same-sex marriage anywhere inside the United States, some couple who entered into a legal relationship like a civil union or domestic partnership during the complicated years prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision may still have difficulty obtaining a clean and easy divorce.

In California, there was a brief period where domestic partnerships were recognized. If you have both, you'll have to dissolve both before you are legally untangled from your spouse. If you only dissolve one type of union, you would still be unable to remarry and would have other legal ties to your spouse as well.

If you were in a civil union recognized by another state, you may have to seek a dissolution of that civil union in that state.

What other considerations are important?

If you and your spouse have children together, it's important to consider the effect of a divorce on your legal relationship to those children. In many cases, same-sex couples weren't able to have their partner's name included on a birth certificate as a second parent. In adoptions, many same-sex couples were forced into listing only one parent on the adoption forms.

If your name is not on your child's birth certificate or adoption papers, ending your marriage would end your legal relationship. If your child is a minor, that could affect your ability to gain custody and visitation. If your child is now an adult, that could affect other issues, like his or her ability to inherit you or be named as your next-of-kin in emergencies.

Unfortunately, the complicated road that led to legalized same-sex marriages has left a lot of gray areas in the legal world of same-sex divorces. For that reason, it's wise to seek legal counsel as soon as you can.

Source: California Courts: The Judicial Branch of California, "Options to End Marriage or Domestic Partnership," accessed Feb. 28, 2017

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