Whether traditional or same-sex, a certain percentage of marriages are bound to end in divorce. There are issues, however, that same-sex splitting couples may have to deal with that differ from their opposite sex counterparts.
Length of the Relationship vs. Length of the Marriage
Both heterosexual and same-sex couples may cohabit for many years before tying the knot. However, for same-sex couples, the right to marry in their state may have only become reality in 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. While the same-sex couple’s marriage may have lasted a short time, the overall relationship may have existed for decades. Some states may recognize the length of the relationship in court, while others recognize only the length of the marriage.
Why is the length of the marriage so critical? Assets are divided according to the length of the marriage, and marriage length also affects whether one spouse is eligible for alimony. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, so how assets are divided does involve a judge’s discretion, to some degree. If the couple had a civil union prior to the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013, that can help the argument that the marriage was truly of longer duration. New Jersey began recognizing civil unions as of 2007, so that may add a few years to the union but still not recognize a longer-term relationship.
Ending Domestic Partnerships
Prior to becoming able to marry, many same-sex couples entered domestic partnerships or civil unions. Most simply married their partner when gay marriage became legal. When divorcing, these couples discover that they not only have to end their marriage, they must also end the earlier domestic partnership. In some states, domestic partnerships were dissolved when same-sex marriage became legal, but in others, that was not the case. In essence, couples ending their union may be dissolving two legal relationships.
Child custody is often a different ballgame for same-sex parents. One parent may be the biological mother or father of the child, while the other has no genetic relationship. If the other parent did not legally adopt their spouse’s child, they may no longer have rights to continue a parental relationship with the child, or even see them again. Even if the child is not the biological child of either parent, many states did not permit same-sex couple adoption, so one member of the couple may have adopted the child as a single parent. If the other spouse did not subsequently adopt the child, the same loss of parental rights may occur.
Rather than fighting it out in the courts, same-sex couples may consider mediation when ending their marriage. Costs of litigation are far higher than mediation, and mediation permits a more collaborative approach that may benefit both parties in the long run. The agreement may work for the specific needs of the couple and family and is more fair to both parties.
South Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Kearney & Martone, P.C. Handle Same-Sex Divorce Issues with Skill and CompassionIf you are contemplating divorce, you need the services of the experienced South Jersey divorce lawyers at Kearney & Martone, P.C. To arrange a confidential consultation in our Haddon Heights office, contact us online or call 856-547-7733. We represent clients throughout South Jersey, including those in Haddonfield, Collingswood, and Washington Township.