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Divorcing same-sex couples might incur twice the cost

In this companion piece to last week’s post, today’s issue involves the unique issues that may face gay couples during a divorce.

Yes, even though gay marriage has been legal only for a short time in only a minority of states, as well as the District of Columbia, some gay couples have filed for divorce. Yet the experience they face reflects that many administrative divorce issues are still antiquated, or at least not updated to deal with the new reality of gay divorce.

Part of the difficulty arises for gay couples that perhaps honeymoon in a jurisdiction where gay marriage is legal, only to return back home to a state where it isn’t recognized -- which, at last count, is 37 American states. Not surprisingly, states that don’t recognize gay marriage also lack comparable gay divorce laws.

Yet even in states that allow gay marriage, a subsequent divorce might cost double the amount incurred by heterosexual couples. For example, couples might have lived together for years before gay marriage became legal. In defining the marital estate, a court might struggle with the date the marriage began. Although New York does not recognize common law marriage, other states do. A longer marriage might greatly impact the value of joint assets, or affect the inclusion or exclusion of others.

Although these issues might be novel to some divorce attorneys, others might include gay marriage and family law issues in their practice. Such attorneys might have insight into the most efficient ways to navigate antiquated aspects of the family law court system.

Source:, “Gay Divorce: For Gay Couples, Divorce Equality Is Also A Trial,” Geoff Williams, July 5, 2013

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