When Breaking Up Is REALLY Hard to Do — An Article on Same-Sex Divorce
Divorce is a process that is almost, if not just, as old as marriage itself. In the U.S., it was once fairly difficult to end a marriage, but once states began formalizing uncontested divorce procedures it became a lot easier and less expensive. Of course, that is true only for marriages between a man and a woman.
“[Port v. Cowan] represents just one of the many blind spots in the legal infrastructure of same-sex marriage in America. Couples often have different rights when they cross jurisdictional lines and may not have the same status in the eyes of the federal government as they do in their home states. The laws are constantly evolving and election-year politics promise to heighten the already divisive passion surrounding the issue.”
Port v. Cowan (link leads to a video of oral argument in the Maryland Court of Appeals), nicely summarized by The Baltimore Sun, is a divorce that would be a matter of a few minutes in court followed by a one-line declaration by a judge and a short decree declaring the parties are separated by law. But for gay couples that go sour, the country’s current patchwork of same-sex marriage and divorce laws makes something that most people take for granted a more difficult proposition.
If you live in a state that has already legalized same-sex marriage and/or recognizes such unions from other states, divorce is as simple as following the rules. However, if you don’t live in such a state and you need to separate from your spouse, the best way to protect your rights is to sign a binding property settlement agreement with your spouse, as well as rewriting your will and creating new beneficiary arrangements for insurance purposes, and that’s just for starters. Simply put, you would need to manually sever as many ties as you can with your spouse with separate instruments to gain the same effect that a divorce does automatically.
It is difficult enough, especially during an emotionally stressful time like a separation, to have to deal with jumping through legal hoops. But it is better to safeguard your rights. And maybe someday the law will catch up so all of it will become unnecessary.
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