Same-Sex Marriage Legal in CA, but Some Judges Slow to Catch Up

We have previously written about the unique issues gay and lesbian couples face during family law disputes. The fate of same-sex marriage in California was uncertain until the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year.

But even with same-sex marriage now firmly established as legal, gay and lesbian couples face challenges when it comes to divorce and child custody issues. For instance, some attorneys are ill-equipped to apply current divorce laws to same-sex marriages. In other cases, judges overseeing disputes may have a difficult time letting go of old prejudices and ideas about what family and marriage “should” look like.

In a recent news article, one California divorce attorney discussed a complex case involving a lesbian couple with two children. They had conceived and given birth to their kids in a relatively complex set of steps, but when they decided to divorce, they were mostly able to work out custody and visitation issues by themselves.

The dispute that brought them to court was related to division of assets. But the judge overseeing their case was seemingly unable to focus on the matter at hand because he was preoccupied with how the couple conceived and their “lifestyle” in general. He was an older judge and from a generation less accustomed to same-sex relationships.

Finally, the two women decided that it was better to work out their issues through mediation rather than leaving major decisions up to a judge who did not understand their relationship.

As slow as the progress of same-sex marriage has been, it may take even more time for all judges (and attorneys for that matter) to become accustomed to the unique challenges posed by same-sex divorce and other family law issues.

For this and other reasons, gay and lesbian couples considering divorce should seek an experienced and understanding attorney who knows how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of same-sex divorce.

Source: Business Insider, “A Lesbian Couple’s Messy Split Shows How US Divorce Law Has Completely Changed,” Laura Wasser, Oct. 22, 2013

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