Special Complications of Same-Sex Divorce

The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the United States with the landmark 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges. This ruling stipulates that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses ensure a fundamental right to marriage for same-sex couples. With marriage, however, comes divorce—and our legal system remains woefully unprepared to handle the following complications of same-sex dissolution:

Dissolving Multiple Unions

Maryland first provided domestic partnership as a marriage alternative in 2008. Some couples pursued this option prior to same-sex marriage’s legalization. If these spouses choose to divorce, they may be forced to dissolve multiple unions. This problem may also apply to those who became domestic partners in one state and later married in anothe.

Legal Dates Versus Actual Relationships

Maryland first granted same-sex couples the right to legal marriage in 2013, but some couples deemed themselves married long before state laws allowed their union. This distinction can spell trouble for asset division; does property acquired prior to 2013 count as shared? How can couples equitably distribute assets obtained before their union became legal?

These questions can generally most successfully be resolved through mediation, in which separating spouses can define the start and end of their union on their own terms. This approach particularly benefits lower-earning spouses, as judges may not be willing to tack extra years onto a marital union. If, however, the matter plays out in court, the lower-earning spouse should arrive prepared with records of apartment leases, signed bank accounts or other documentation. These documents can prove that a domestic relationship existed prior to same-sex marriage legalization.

Custody for Non-Biological Children

Same-sex couples who expand their family via adoption or via assisted reproductive technology (ART) may struggle to secure parental rights. This is especially concerning for those who lack biological ties to their children. Thankfully, Maryland’s Court of Appeals recently ruled that those who raise children but lack biological or adoptive connections can still achieve recognition as legal parents. To do so, they must demonstrate the strength of their relationship through a four-part test.

No matter your sexual orientation or the gender of your ex, you deserve compassionate support from a respectful Maryland family lawyer. Look to DiPietro Family Law Group for kindhearted counsel and proactive representation.

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