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Supreme Court decision on DOMA will affect same-sex divorce too

There may be some in Massachusetts that haven't heard that a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act has been put before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the provision is struck down by the Supreme Court, it could not only affect same-sex marriages, but also what happens in a same-sex divorce. There are many couples preparing for the possibility that the provision will be eliminated from the Act.

The provision in question says that gay and lesbian couples are not entitled to federal benefits currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples. The largest of these benefits has to do with taxes and social security. Even though no one can know how the Supreme Court is going to rule, accountants are encouraging their clients to file amended tax returns and file for social security benefits now.

With regard to taxes, there is a three year deadline for amending tax returns. Therefore, any same-sex couple married in 2009 only has until this April 15 to file amended returns for that year. For same-sex couples that may receive a larger refund filing single this year may want to go ahead and file their returns just in case.

Social Security benefits are another area that could change for gay and lesbian couples. Heterosexual couples have the right to up to 50 percent of their deceased or ex-spouse's Social Security benefits. These benefits would also be made available if the provision is eliminated.

As much as having access to these federal benefits could help same-sex couples in Massachusetts, they could also complicate a same-sex divorce. Any divorce settlement negotiated by the parties may need to consider the tax ramifications and the impact on social security benefits, if applicable. Couples involved in a same-sex divorce or any same-sex couple for that matter may want to seek advice on how the repeal of this provision of the act could affect them.

Source: Huffington Post, March 9, 2013

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