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Same-sex divorce: how changes in the laws may affect you

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2017 | Divorce

A person who has entered into a same-sex marriage or partnership agreement may find him or herself in need of a divorce someday. If that is you, you may be wondering if there are any special considerations of your same-sex divorce. The law of the land has changed, and you may be wondering if it affects you.

Same-sex couples will face all the typical concerns of other couples who seek divorce. The specific legal circumstances of the marriage may also add a layer of complexity. Although a federal Supreme Court decision is in effect regarding same-sex marriage, some states will require certain other actions.

History of same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage became legal on the federal level only recently, in 2015, with the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Prior to that, the Defense of Marriage Act governed same-sex marriage. That law stated that states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The law later declared this unconstitutional and replaced it with the Obergefell decision.

Non-resident divorces

Prior to the new ruling, a couple that married in another state, but resided in a state that did not formally recognize the marriage, faced a problem when it came to getting a divorce. If the state did not recognize the marriage, it would not typically grant the divorce. And some other states require one or both persons to reside in the state where the marriage happened for a certain length of time before granting a marriage. This posed a problem for individuals, and some states have changed their policies for non-resident divorces, allowing a person to petition for divorce, if he or she married in the state, even if he or she is not a resident of the state.

New federal laws

New federal laws now have legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. From Ohio to Oregon, any same-sex couple can enter a legally binding marriage recognized officially. The law protects marriage equality and requires states to recognize marriages performed in other states.

Ending a domestic partnership

As an alternative to same-sex marriage before it became legal, some couples chose to enter into domestic partnerships. The domestic partnerships do not fall under the Obergefell decision. In states that do not recognize these types of partnerships, it can be hard if not impossible to dissolve them, leaving a person in the same predicament as one would face with a non-resident divorce.

If you are in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, you may find that the time has come to dissolve the relationship. Although federal laws have made it easier for individuals to marry and divorce, if your case is particularly complex, you may want to refer to your state’s laws or the laws of the state in which you married.


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