LGBT Family Law

Complex Issues Faced by Same-sex Couples

F&E’s family lawyers attorneys understand that same-sex couples and unmarried partners can face unique challenges. With the Obergefell decision in 2015, the US Supreme legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, but same-sex couples continue to face complicated legal issues given the patchwork of state laws that governed their relationships prior to 2015. It is often difficult to understand your rights in each situation and be certain of the best way to accomplish your goals.

Same-sex Divorce

Even with same-sex marriage now the law of the land, the family court systems of the states were designed to deal with heterosexual divorce. The issues unique to same-sex divorce have not been fully ironed out by state regulations and the courts. This is particularly true in states that were forced to confer legal status on same-sex marriage by Obergefell.

Couples Married in Multiple States

Unlike heterosexual couples who marry in only one state, prior to Obergefell same-sex couples sometimes married in several jurisdictions and often entered into civil unions and/or domestic partnerships, as well. When these couples wish to part ways, all of these legal relationships should be dissolved. If even one is left intact, the rights and responsibilities of the relationship will continue to exist in any jurisdiction that recognizes the relationship as valid.

The ideal approach is to convince the court to dissolve all of your relationships in the same proceeding, however many of the complications involved in the dissolution of multiple relationships are relatively new–even to courts that regularly handle same-sex divorces.

One such complication arises from multiple marriages of different durations. The divorce law of the state in which you file may allow the court to consider the length of your marriage in its division of assets or the awarding of alimony, for example. If a couple has more than one relationship to dissolve and each is of a different duration, the court will need to determine which duration should apply.

Even with a nationally-recognized right to marry, the ability to obtain a same-sex divorce remains a difficult and complicated process with confusing residency requirements that need to be understood and sorted out. F&E’s family lawyers have the experience you need to navigate you through these legal technicalities.

Child Custody & Support

Child custody and support issues are generally far more complicated in a same-sex divorce than they are in a heterosexual divorce. In fact, this can be the most difficult issue of all.

For example, if one spouse of a same-sex couple is neither the biological nor the adoptive parent of the child, issues of parentage, and the accompanying rights and responsibilities must be resolved.

If one of you is the biological parent and the other did not adopt, for instance, the non-biological “parent” may or may not be seen as a parent by the court. The answer may depend, at least in part, upon whether the state in which the couple lives confers parental rights on non-biological parents.

If one spouse is adjudicated not to be a parent in the eyes of the law, that spouse may be denied all parental rights and responsibilities, despite having devoted years to the care of the child in question. Child custody and support laws differ from state to state, and the particulars of each situation lead to case-specific results.

Child custody and support issues for domestic partners need to be clearly understood, especially in the event of a dissolution of the family entity.

If you have questions about national or binational same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships, or about your rights as a parent in a same-sex relationship, we can help. The F&E family lawyers are knowledgeable and compassionate and can assist you with adoption, second-parent adoption, de facto or psychological parent status and all aspects of your divorce or dissolution.

F&E’s Family Law Group has extensive experience in meeting the needs of non-traditional couples and families, and are committed to staying on the leading edge of this rapidly evolving area of law.

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