When the United States Supreme Court repealed the Defense of Marriage Act in 2015, same-sex couples gained the right to legally marry everywhere in the nation. The move ended the patchwork of laws that subjected same-sex individuals to uneven treatment when it came to their right to marry the persons they loved.
Unfortunately, same-sex couples are subject to many of the same marital stressors as heterosexual couples. Just like heterosexual marriages, same-sex marriages break down and end in divorce. For many same-sex couples — particularly those in their late 50s and older — the legacy of those patchwork laws of the last few decades can make divorce complicated.
If your same-sex marriage is dissolving, here are the things you need to consider:
1. Where did you formalize your relationship with your spouse (and how)?
If you had a domestic partnership, do you still have one? Some states converted their domestic partnerships into marriages — and some didn’t. Some same-sex couples have both a domestic partnership (often obtained before the right to marry was possible) and a marriage.
This is important, because it’s possible you may need to take legal steps to dissolve your union in more than one way.
2. How long were you committed as a couple before marriage?
This may not be easy to figure out, especially if you and your spouse are at odds on the issue. However, it’s important to know if there’s any spousal support involved. Spousal support awards are often more generous when a couple has a longer marriage. But your “de facto” marriage may have existed long before you gained equal rights.
3. What is your legal relationship to any children of the marriage?
You may not have any minor children to be concerned about, but that doesn’t mean that your relationships with your adult children aren’t important. You may wish to take steps to solidify a relationship with an adult child that isn’t biologically yours once your marriage ends. That may be important down the line for issues of inheritance and when determining next-of-kin.
During this complicated time, same-sex couples need advice that’s fair, considered and understanding of their situation. Our office can provide those things. For more information, please continue to explore our page.