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Same-sex divorces: Special issues you need to consider

Marriage equality, for good or ill, means divorce equality. Same-sex couples have no more a guarantee of a "happily ever after" than anybody else, unfortunately.

Same-sex divorces, however, still require a lot of careful consideration. Thanks to the patchwork of laws that went into place over time in the years before same-sex marriage was legal nationally, many same-sex couples were in committed relationships of some kind long before they could legalize their unions.

If you and your same-sex spouse are headed for divorce, here are some of the things that need to be considered:

1. What type of union have you had?

Was your union informal or merely spiritual until after the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision? Did you have a civil union or legal domestic partnership? If so, in what state?

Not every state handled the shifts in the law the same. In some, domestic partnerships or civil unions converted to legal marriages. In others, the civil union or domestic partnerships remain -- independent of the marriage you may have had later. If that's your situation, you and your spouse will need to dissolve both your marriage and your other legal union in two separate motions.

2. How long have you really been together?

At what point did you and your spouse take on the unofficial roles as each other's spouse? In some cases, a marital relationship may have existed in every way except legally long before the laws changed.

That's important to consider because it can affect both the division of property and any spousal support that should be paid. Generally speaking, the longer the relationship, the more important it is to address this issue.

3. Are there any children involved?

If you and your spouse have minor children, you each may be concerned about parental rights, custody and visitation -- but you may not both be on the child's birth certificate.

Talk to an attorney who really understands these issues and who has the experience you need with same-sex divorces to guide you through this process.

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Mary Kay Kramer, P.C.
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