Advocates for same-sex marriage have been celebrating two different rulings by the United States Supreme Court that many see as major victories for their cause. However, things aren’t completely smooth sailing for same-sex couples, especially those seeking a same-sex divorce. Because same-sex marriages are relatively new element in family law, only legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, the court system has been struggling to keep up with the law. Because many states currently do not have procedures in place to handle such a divorce, the process can often be more complicated and expensive than a heterosexual divorce.
One couple who decided to end their relationship has found this out for themselves. The two men felt they could have a quick, amicable divorce, but soon discovered that the court system had no protocols in place to handle their divorce, oftentimes stalling the process as it determined the correct course of action. Some same-sex couples have estimated that their divorce cost almost $110,000 more than a regular divorce.
In addition to how the court will maneuver proceedings, there are other issues that arise in a same-sex divorce that do not in a heterosexual divorce. For example, one woman claims that although she had married once same-sex marriage was legalized in her state, she and her partner had been living as a married couple, including combined finances and co-owned properties, for years prior to the ceremony. However, the court only recognizes co-ownership of property from the time of the actual marriage.
If there are children in the family, the process is even more complicated. As occasionally happens, one of the members of the relationship is the biological parent of the child. However, the rights of the non-biological parent get a little more complicated, especially if that parent hasn’t gone through the adoption process. Children also add an extra layer of expense to the process.
Because of all these issues, it is often important for those seeking a same-sex divorce, even Massachusetts which was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, to have help from someone who is familiar with the process. The bumps in the road will likely be smoothed out by the first few pioneers to bulldoze through the process. However, it is important for same-sex couples to realize that their divorce process may look very different than the heterosexual divorce process.
Source: CNBC, “For gay couples, divorce comes with extra costs,” Eun Kyung Kim, Aug. 6, 2013