Same-Sex Divorce: The Obstacles Involved, and How to Surmount Them

same sex divorce

In 2015, the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, including in the thirteen states where it had been banned. This ruling ensured that same-sex couples received the same benefits and legal protections as heterosexual couples, such as tax exemptions and healthcare. While the process of getting married has become simpler for same-sex couples since then, divorcing remains more complicated. Although same-sex couples can now legally divorce, they still face unique challenges.

Dissolution of Two Unions

Many same-sex couples are in two separate legal relationships: their marriage and a domestic partnership they entered into before same-sex marriage was legalized. A domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two people who live together.

Now, when same-sex couples are filing for divorce, many are finding they actually have two legal relationships to dissolve. Though this complicates the proceedings a bit, family law attorneys can help move through the process in a more efficient way.

Payment of Alimony

Since same-sex marriage was legalized only six years ago, many partners spent years, even decades, living together prior to marriage. This makes alimony a more complex process, especially in front of a judge who is not familiar with all of the specific couple’s circumstances. 

In some states, divorcing couples may be awarded “palimony”, or financial support for partners who are not married, depending on how long the couple spent sharing a residence. For those couples who have been together for many years prior to marriage, those relationships potentially carry more weight in court. However, there are no guarantees as to how assets will be divided and if alimony will be granted.

Child Custody & Legal Parental Rights

One of the potentially most heart-wrenching aspects of same-sex divorce is blurred lines over each parent’s rights to visitation of their children. 

If a couple decided to adopt or start a family before legal marriage, a parent might find themselves without legal parental rights to those children. In addition, if a child has been adopted or born to one parent, that parent is the one who maintains the legal rights. Unless the couple has established parental rights legally, one parent could risk losing custody.

When a same-sex couple enters divorce proceedings, both parties should strongly consider mediation. The mediation process allows for more control and collaboration, as well as an awareness of all the subtleties of a same-sex divorce. Counsel from a family law attorney can help same-sex partners navigate this potentially frustrating process and make it a more seamless one.

If divorce is on your mind and you’re seeking a legal ally who genuinely comprehends and stands by you, Harden Law Firm is here for you. We’re dedicated to accompanying you through each stage with a blend of expertise and understanding. Contact us for a consultation