Now that thirteen states have legalized same-sex marriage, the enviable aftermath is some couples are now filing for divorce. Unfortunately, most courts are having a hard time just getting the marriage side of the relationship right. The break-up side is unfamiliar terrain for both judges and lawyers, especially if there are children involved.
A problem with child custody is that at least one, and often both parents are not the child’s biological parent. While no one thinks that their marriage will fail, many do not take pro-active steps such as legally adopting the child so that clear boundaries can be established should the relationship fail.
Gay couples that have sought legal help for divorces have found the price to be much higher than with traditional “straight” divorces. Again, part of the reason for this is that the courts are working in an unfamiliar legal area and often ask lawyers for both sides for additional briefs so they can review the legal basis for such common issues as property division.
An additional factor that drives up the cost of a same-sex divorce is the residency requirement imposed by some states. For many gay couples to get married, they had to arrange to travel to a different state for their marriage license. If they live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, they then have to return to a state that does. Unfortunately, many states require a minimum period of residency (six months being a typical length of time) before a divorce can be filed.
Between the additional legal time and the residency clauses, a same-sex divorce can easily be ten times the cost of a traditional divorce, but the average is closer to double. Gay divorce filings are also often rejected, which means hours of legal fees researching, writing and filing appeals, adding to the costs. To avoid this, some gay and lesbian couples take the position that if the marriage wasn’t recognized in their state, that they simply split and re-marry someone else. Unfortunately, that is defined as bigamy and poses even greater legal challenges.