Things to Know About Same Sex Divorce in South Carolina


The journey towards legal recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States has been a long road, marked by numerous legal battles and landmark Supreme Court decisions. Among the most pivotal moments in this journey was the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, and granted same-sex couples the same legal marriage benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

This historic decision not only affirmed the right to marry but also the right to divorce, underlining the importance of legal protections and recognitions in marital unions. Despite this progress, the dissolution of a same-sex marriage can present unique challenges, particularly for those who have navigated life together before their unions were legally recognized. 

In South Carolina, as in other states, the legal framework for divorce applies equally to same-sex and heterosexual couples. However, the nuances of divorce law, from the division of property that predates legal marriage to issues of child custody and support where legal parentage may be contested, can complicate the divorce.

Property Division

In South Carolina, the division of property in a divorce follows the principle of equitable division. This approach aims to fairly divide assets and debts accumulated during the marriage, without regard to the title or which spouse made the purchase.

However, anything owned prior to the marriage or acquired after filing for divorce is considered separate property. This distinction becomes complex for same-sex couples who have shared their lives and assets long before their marriage was legally recognized. These couples might find that assets acquired before their legal marriage are not divided in a manner that reflects their shared history. Legal advice and guidance is crucial in navigating the division process in order to achieve a fair outcome. 

Child Custody and Support 

Child custody and child support issues can be particularly nuanced in same-sex divorces, largely depending on the legal parentage of the child. If only one partner is the legal parent, the other may face significant challenges in securing custody or visitation rights, notwithstanding their role in the child’s life. 

However, the Supreme Court’s extension of marriage benefits to include parentage rights in all states has paved the way for the legal adoption of children by married same-sex couples. This means that, in disputes, courts are increasingly applying the principle that non-biological parents in same-sex marriages have the same rights and obligations as biological parents. Nonetheless, navigating custody and support arrangements requires careful legal consideration to ensure that the best interests of the child and the rights of both parents are protected.

Spousal Support 

Alimony, or spousal support, is another area where same-sex couples may face unique challenges. In South Carolina, the determination of alimony follows the same legal standards regardless of the couple’s gender. However, many same-sex couples have lived together and supported each other financially for years, or even decades, before they could legally marry. 

When considering alimony, courts may take into account the length of the marriage, which could disadvantageously reflect a shorter period than the actual duration of the relationship. Some jurisdictions and judges may choose to consider the entirety of the relationship when determining spousal support, recognizing the financial interdependence that existed prior to legal marriage.

Domestic Partnerships

Before the legalization of same-sex marriage, many couples entered into domestic partnerships or civil unions as an alternative. These arrangements can complicate the divorce process, as they may need to be legally dissolved alongside the marriage. 

In South Carolina, as in other states, the process for ending a domestic partnership or civil union often mirrors that of divorce, including residency requirements and division of property. Couples may find themselves navigating multiple legal processes to fully dissolve their relationship.

Because same-sex divorce can be more complex, the need for comprehensive legal guidance tends to be greater. Understanding the nuances of the law and its application to same-sex marriages can ensure that the divorce process is handled fairly and that the rights and interests of both parties are upheld.

For more information regarding same-sex divorce, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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