In 2015, same-sex marriage was made legal throughout the United States. Many people rushed to get married after that 26th of June, joyous and excited to finally be legally recognized as a couple; however, rushing into marriage can oftentimes lead to further problems down the road, and sometimes those problems lead to divorce.
And if we believe an almost unseemly number of think-pieces on the Internet, it appears same-sex couples are rushing to divorce. A recent piece in the British magazine The Spectator claims that lesbian couples, in particular, are divorcing at higher rates. Per their data:
By 2020, 2,900 same-sex couples, of whom nearly three-quarters were female, had divorced. The same trend can be seen in the Netherlands, the first country to allow same-sex marriage: in the ten years from 2005, 15 percent of gay civil partnerships failed, compared with 30 percent of lesbian ones. The latest research showed that overall, women are much more likely to instigate divorce proceedings than men, with two-thirds of divorces initiated by women in the past ten years.
The numbers are comparable in the United States, but the reasons behind it are unknown. It could be that there are simply more lesbian married couples than there are gay couples in the U.S. It could be that women in general are more likely to initiate a divorce than men. It could also be financial: on average, same-sex couples are more likely to have post-graduate degrees, more likely to both have jobs, and have a higher overall income – and money is often the root of domestic troubles.
Though the reasons why may be unknown, there is something we do know for sure: while the same divorce laws apply to all marriages, same-sex divorce can often be more complex and complicated than heterosexual divorce.
Same-sex couples face additional complications regarding property division
During any divorce, the legal process can be a complicated one depending on the amount of assets there are to split, settling on who gets to keep what. This determination is based on marital property, which is “property, or interest in property, that the parties acquired during the marriage — no matter how the property is titled.” This distinction is important, because many same-sex couples cohabitated for years, even decades before they were allowed to get married, and therefore when they later wish to get divorced, the division of their marital assets is a little less clear-cut. They have plenty of assets or property that the two parties in the divorce have shared for long before the marriage. As CNBC News points out, this creates challenges because different states have different rules. In some states, a judge can consider the prior years of cohabitation when it comes to dividing assets, but that is not the case everywhere. In many places, these assets are not counted among the marital property, and therefore alimony or spousal support can be skewed in such a way that is not fair to one of the parties in the divorce.
Furthermore, some states required a legal change in status that can also create challenges for same-sex couples. Nancy Hetrick, a certified divorce financial analyst and senior advisor at Better Money Decisions in Phoenix, told CNBC that “some states dissolved domestic partnerships and required couples to get married, other states decided to leave them intact. Some couples still got married, and are finding when they get divorced they have to end both unions.”
Challenges for same-sex parents when it comes to child support and custody
The divorce process is challenging enough for couples without children. LGBTQ+ Parents, however, face additional hurdles, especially if one parent has a biological link to the child and the other parent does not, or if one parent legally adopted the child before gay marriage was legal. This can affect custody decisions as well as child support.
The good news in Maryland, at least, is that our Courts recognize de facto parenting in some cases: when a court finds that an adult, who is a non-biological, non-adoptive parent to a child, has acted in a parental role nonetheless, and may be legally entitled to that recognition.” It is in all parents’ best interests to adopt their children if they have no biological connection or legal ties; we can help with this so you can avoid heartache later.
Do you need an attorney for a same-sex divorce?
As we can see, divorce can often be a complicated process that can take time, finances, and plenty of emotional heavy lifting. While you are never legally required to hire an attorney, doing so can protect your best interests and the interests of your children. If the divorce is based on grounds, like cruelty or abandonment, or if it is contested in any way, you want a litigator on your side. Divorce lawyers can help you also identify all marital property, determine the value of premarital and marital assets, and they can assist with all paperwork and legal explanations, lessening the stress and hassle on you. Finally, same-sex couples face legal challenges unique to them when it comes to child support and child custody, and trying to handles these issues on your own can cost you and your children time together.
No matter what your reasons are for a divorce, McCabe Russell, PA can make the legal process as simple and as smooth as possible for you. We will work to make sure that each party is given their fair share, and that you can continue on with your life with as little financial disturbance as possible. Please call 443-917-3347 or fill out our contact form. McCabe Russell, PA, maintains offices in Fulton, Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia for your convenience.
Emily has earned the well-deserved reputation among her colleagues for her willingness to successfully take on some of the most difficult divorce and custody cases throughout the state. Without a doubt, Emily is the trial attorney you want seated on your side of the courtroom.
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