Same-Sex Divorce Often Comes with Snags & Legal Uncertainties

It would be an understatement to say that it has been an eventful summer as far as marriage equality is concerned. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court strike down the federal Defense Of Marriage Act; it also refused to rule on Proposition 8. In doing so, the Court effectively restored same-sex marriage rights here in California.

With the recent addition of both Rhode Island and Minnesota, 13 states and the District of Columbia now legally allow same-sex marriage. Although these changes represent a big step forward, there is little doubt that this legal patchwork of laws is creating problems. Of particular concern is uncertainty about how to handle same-sex divorce and the domestic partnership dissolution.

In a recent news article, the author notes that same-sex couples who wish to divorce (or otherwise dissolve their legal relationship) must often endure higher costs, more delays and more legal snags than heterosexual couples. They may also encounter additional problems related to property division and child custody that are less common among heterosexual couples.

For instance, many same-sex couples who are now married were together for years or even decades before gay marriage was legal in their state. But if they later file for divorce, the court may only recognize the years that they were officially married when making determinations about property division.

When it comes to the children of gay couples, it is common for a child to be biologically related to only one parent or to neither. If the non-biological parent never filed the appropriate adoption paperwork, for example, this could seriously hinder the outcome of a child custody battle if the couple ever got divorced.

While we should be thankful for the progress that marriage equality proponents have made in the United States, we should also recognize that the fight is far from over. And until gay marriage becomes more commonplace and widespread, many gay couples will have a harder time seeking divorce.

For this and other reasons, gay couples who need help with their divorce or domestic partnership dissolution should contact an attorney with the relevant experience to make the process as smooth as it can be.

Source:, “For gay couples, divorce comes with extra costs,” Eun Kyung Kim, Aug. 6, 2013

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