Divorce is the legal separation of a married couple, and traditionally, both marriage and divorce were reserved only for heterosexual couples. As civil rights definitions were challenged and expanded in recent years, same-sex couples are now able to enjoy the ability to marry as well as take advantage of the varied benefits that come along with marriage. Unfortunately, just like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples also face challenges in marriage. When these challenges can not be overcome, divorce may be the only viable option left.
Are Same-Sex Divorces Different Than Opposite-Sex Divorces?
In virtually every aspect, divorce laws and procedures apply to same-sex couples in the exact same ways that they apply to opposite-sex couples. Because same-sex marriages are recognized as legal and binding, a divorce of any kind must follow a set of steps according to various state laws in order to dissolve. Once a divorce is final between spouses of the same sex, the result is the same in the eyes of the law.
Potential Problems For Civil Unions
The only real difference in a same-sex divorce is the matter of civil unions that were established in certain states prior to the recognition of same-sex marriage on the federal level. Because some states recognized civil unions, but not marriages, between same-sex partners prior to 2015, same-sex couples who decide to split presently may not be afforded the same legal opportunities as those who decide to split post-legalization.
To make matters more complicated, different states that previously recognized civil unions may have had differing definitions of what does or does not constitute a civil union as well as what rights were afforded to these couples in the event of the dissolution of a civil union. For this reason, it’s recommended that same-sex couples who wish to dissolve a civil union, but who had never been legally married, consult with a divorce attorney to discuss the matter in detail.
Same-Sex Uncontested Divorce
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to the divorce without contest. This means that neither party is challenging the terms of the divorce. Put another way, both spouses agree to go their separate ways without the need for litigation regarding things like the division of shared property or custody of children. These types of divorces are often the fastest and most efficient when compared to a contested divorce.
Same-Sex Contested Divorces
A contested divorce is the dissolution of a marriage that involves legal challenges to the separation terms. In most cases of a contested divorce, one spouse believes that he or she is not receiving an equitable split of shared property or assets. If minor children are involved and a family court custody ruling has not been finalized, the terms of custody and support payments may also be contested. These types of divorces can become very complex and require a lot of time spent in court with a judge making the final determination as to who has rights to what.
Same-Sex Spousal and Child Support
In keeping with the above, same-sex couples may also face issues of spousal support and child support upon divorce. This may occur when one spouse was the sole breadwinner in a marriage or when a same-sex couple shared custody of a minor child or children. If a child or children was from a previous relationship by one or both spouses, the issue of custody can become even more complex rather quickly. In these types of situations, it’s highly recommended that you work with a divorce attorney.
Spousal support issues may also require one spouse to pay support payments for a period of time determined by the final divorce decree. These payments are meant to ensure that the other spouse is able to maintain and support his or her accustomed lifestyle for a period of time agreed upon or outlined in the divorce decree.
The Same Decorum Recommendations Apply
Same-sex spouses who are seeking a divorce are also encouraged to follow the same decorum recommendations as opposite-sex spouses during the divorce process. In general, it’s best to allow a divorce attorney to handle most contact in order to prevent high emotions from causing tension. Emotionally charged contact can lead to you or your spouse saying or doing things can can jeoparidize the outcome of the divorce. A divorce attorney can provide an objective view of things like financial arrangements as well.
In any type of divorce, it can be difficult to separate yourself from the a situation that you are emotionally invested in, so you may not look at things with an uncolored perspective. Your attorney will be able to act as an advocate to ensure that everyone is treated fairly in the divorce so that further issues do not come up down the road.
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