The recent Supreme Court rulings regarding gay marriage sent shockwaves through the family law world earlier this week. The overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was especially influential and will lead to massive changes in the way gay couples receive federal benefits and pay federal taxes.
One thing that will not change for the better for same sex couples is the process of divorce. In fact, legal experts say neither the DOMA ruling nor the Prop 8 case will make the process of divorce easier for gay couples. Because the Supreme Court did not rule more broadly, making same-sex marriage legal nationwide, then those married couples who do not currently reside in a state that recognizes gay marriage will have to seek a divorce in a state that does.
This back and forth means that gay divorces will remain lengthier and costlier than heterosexual splits. This is especially the case because most states have a residency requirement for divorce, meaning at least one spouse needs to establish residency in that state for a requisite period of time before the courts will agree to hear a divorce petition. For instance, in California one party must reside in the state for a period of at least six months before the family law courts will hear a divorce claim. Thankfully, there are some exceptions to that rule though, including Washington, D.C. which allows divorce without residency for couples whose marriage is not recognized in their home state.
Issues revolving around child custody will also remain complicated for same-sex couples, especially in cases where both parents have not jointly adopted the child. For instance, a non-biological parent may not receive automatic visitation rights in many states if they have not formally adopted the child, despite acting as the parent for a number of years. It is for this reason that joint adoption is so critical, as it would be heartbreaking for one parent to discover in the midst of a divorce that they have no rights to spend time with a child they love.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of complicated divorce and have questions about your rights and options, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol Lee Stephan.
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