When a same-sex couple divorces, they may face certain issues that most heterosexual couples don't have to consider.
The complications that same-sex couples experience during their divorces are part of the legacy left behind from years of discrimination and a patchwork of legal rulings and laws over the decades it took to gain marriage equality. Here are some of the most common questions same-sex couples have to address:
1. Are you legally married?
It's not always an easy question. In California, some couples were allowed to marry -- then soon saw their marriages deemed invalid. Some may have assumed that they had to get married all over again for the marriage to be valid -- and are shocked to find out that they're still legally wed to their spouses. Others are startled to find out that a divorce will end their marriage but not their civil union. You want to make sure that all your legal ties are dissolved if you want your freedom.
2. When did your marriage begin?
This is an important question if you think you may either be entitled to spousal support or have to pay it. The length of a marriage is a big factor in how spousal support, or alimony, is paid. The start date of a marriage also affects which assets belong to the individual and which to the couple.
It's generally unfair to penalize someone who needs support for not getting married sooner when they weren't legally able to do so. However, that leads to some difficulty establishing exactly how many years should be counted as part of any calculations.
3. Are your children legally related to you?
Children of a same-sex marriage may be only biologically related to one of their parents. In the case of adoptions, only one parent may have been on the adoption forms. Often, that was out of necessity due to the adoption agency's attitude toward same-sex couples.
If your children aren't legally related to you, a divorce can throw your life into chaos if your spouse isn't willing to share custody.
Try to put a timeline of your marital relationship down on paper to help your attorney look at the issues and better protect your rights during your same-sex divorce.