Same-Sex Divorce

While same-sex marriage is now allowed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, laws governing same-sex divorce have failed to keep up. Because of that, same-sex spouses looking to end their marriages are now seemingly trapped.

A Same- Sex Divorce Example

Cori Jo Long, 31, and Brooke Powell, 30, travelled from Texas to New Hampshire in 2010 in order to obtain their same-sex marriage. Now that the two have decided to split, their finding themselves in a desperate and literal “wedlock.” The main issue is that Texas, where the couple resides, does not recognize the marriage between the two. And a judge in the state ruled he had no jurisdiction to be able to void the union or formally grant them a divorce. “It’s hard to feel like you don’t exist, like you’re invisible under the law,” said Powell.

Inconsistency from State to State

The divorce procedure varies from state to state. Luckily, the process of same-sex couples who have travelled to state’s other than where they reside to get divorces has become more streamlined. If a couple is seeking an uncontested divorce, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota and Vermont — along with the District of Columbia — have loosened residency requirements. These states grant uncontested divorces, but they will not address issues like child custody, visitation, or spousal support. In Iowa, as well as 12 other states that grant same-sex marriage, a couple must first establish residency in order to seek a divorce. That process can take anywhere from six months to a year or more.

Child Custody Issues

The issue of kids is another particularly difficult matter when it comes to same-sex divorce for couples who travelled to a different state than they reside in to marry. “It’s all very challenging for people,” says Cathy Sakimura, a director of family law at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “If people have adopted, for instance, then they can just file a separate custody action in their state as an unmarried couple after they divorce, but for people who have not, they may find themselves in a situation where one parent is not going to be recognized. It can be a huge problem.”

Source: ABC News, Divorce Law out of Sync With Same-Sex Marriage, September 30, 2014

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