June is Pride month— a month where the LGBTQI+ community takes to the streets, the airwaves, and the Internet to celebrate its Pride! Pride commemorates the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City in 1969 and has been celebrated in many American cities since 1970, with an increase in Pride celebrations that have brought us to where we are today, a nationwide month-long celebration. And of course, in 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage on the federal level, the White House received a rainbow flag lighting makeover to celebrate the ruling— and Pride month!
Since we celebrate pride in same-sex marriages, we should also celebrate pride in same-sex divorces. Why? Because it means LGBTQI+ individuals who are divorcing receive the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual people in a marriage do.
So, if you’re in a same-sex marriage and are considering a divorce, a few things to think about:
- Length of the marriage: the earliest possible dates for same-sex marriages differ depending upon the state you’re in, but the very first state to allow same-sex marriage was in Massachusetts, in 2004. Both alimony and equitable distribution are often hugely predicated upon the length of the marriage. You need to discuss your particular circumstances with a family law attorney: were you married outside the United States? Were you in a registered domestic partnership prior to marrying? Do you have a cohabitation agreement?
- Child custody issues: as only one spouse in the marriage is typically the biological parent, child custody is a thornier issue in same-sex marriage than in heterosexual marriages. And, of course, neither parent may be the biological parent. Should a fifty-fifty custodial parenting split be possible, the issue may not arise; in any other scenario it will likely require a good deal of court evaluations, negotiations, and discussion to deal with the reality of the non-biological parent.
- Property division: Akin to the length of marriage question, common law marriages or domestic partnerships may predate a couple’s legal marriage, and this may impact the division of marital property, such as homes, second homes, automobiles, personal property, and more. As the lawyers at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC, explain, each state deals with the question of what came before the nationwide ruling differently, and so the question of property division in same-sex marriages will vary from state to state.
Of course, most issues are the same as same-sex marriages, and those are often the most important: how do we co-parent? How do we tell the children we’re getting a divorce? How will this impact our individual lives, and how will this impact our family unit?
It is here where we return to the matter of Pride. There should be no shame in seeking a same-sex divorce— as there should be none in seeking a heterosexual divorce. Sometimes marriages don’t work out, and the important thing is to turn the page and start the next chapter of your life. And who knows? You may meet that next special someone at next year’s Pride!