The Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 gave same-sex couples equal marriage rights to those that different-sex couples in the United States have. This includes the right to end a marriage through divorce. However, because the laws of so many states denied same-sex couples marriage rights for so long, divorce can be an ordeal due to unique issues that often arise.
For example, as NBC reports, because the laws of some states prevented same-sex couples from adopting children, sometimes the adoption papers list only one parent. When the couple divorces, the parent not listed on the adoption papers has difficulty obtaining parental rights. A similar situation can arise when one spouse is the child’s biological parent and listed on the birth certificate as such, but the other spouse is not.
According to CNBC, ambiguity also arises because of the way some states have handled marriage and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Many couples entered into domestic partnerships when it was the only option their state offered to formalize the relationship. When same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, some states dissolved domestic partnerships, some states converted them to marriages and other states did nothing. Spouses who got married without first dissolving the domestic partnership are now finding that they now have to end two legal relationships.
During a divorce, the length of the relationship often influences decisions related to asset division and spousal support. However, there is no consistent standard applied across all the states whether the relationship began on the date of the wedding or when the couple began cohabitating. Some states apply the former standard, while others apply the latter.
Not all same-sex couples encounter difficulties like these when they divorce. However, their unique legal situation can lead to headaches that different-sex couples rarely, if ever, have to deal with.