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Same-sex divorce of a legal marriage may prove difficult

Gay and lesbian groups are persisting in their pursuit of having their rights recognized by all states. Many couples who got married in states like California, where same-sex marriages are recognized, lose all their rights if they relocate to a state where such unions are not accepted. When heterosexual marriages fail, a divorce could be finalized within 60 days, while same-sex divorce filings could take years to finalize. This places many restrictions on same-sex couples, such as possibly having to decline career opportunities in states where their marriage would not be recognized.

A couple in another state, where their marriage is not recognized, is currently in a legal battle to get divorced. However, their only option is to have the court void their marriage as if it never happened. This also means that both parties have no rights to anything. While heterosexual couples are protected under law in matters such as Social Security entitlements and retirement benefits, same-sex marriages that are voided provide no benefits or legal recognition.

The whole issue becomes even more complicated when there are children involved in a same-sex marriage. Where does voiding a marriage leave the children? Even in states where these unions are recognized, determining child custody can be a legal nightmare. Because the language of the relevant laws has mostly not been changed to accommodate same-sex parents, child custody and visitation claims are often denied. Legal complications have also caused some adoptions to be reversed, resulting in parents and children experiencing extreme trauma.

Same-sex couples in California who are considering relocation may want to consider consultations with legal advisors prior to making a final decision. While nobody likes to consider the end of a relationship while they are happily married, the reality is that break-ups happen, and same-sex divorce in a different state may present a myriad of complications. Until all states have legalized same-sex marriages, couples may continue to face numerous legal stumbling blocks related to marriage, divorce and child custody.

Source:, "LGBT Marriage, Divorce, And Overall Legal Chaos", George Nielsen, July 27, 2014

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