LGBT And Marriage On The Rocks? Essential Facts You Need To Know About Same-Sex Divorces
The road to marriage equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has been a rocky one. Since Massachusetts became the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in May 2004, the LGBT community has seen setbacks and progress as state courts became intense battlegrounds.
While some states made same-sex marriage legal, others outlawed marriage between LGBT couples. However, with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2015, it became legal for same-sex couples to get married nationwide. But, when it comes to divorce, there is still some progress to be made. If you are in a same-sex marriage and think you might be headed for divorce, the following guide can help you understand some of the issues you may have to contend with during your marriage dissolution.
Finding Experienced Legal Help
In general, many couples do not stay happily married, and divorce becomes a way out of an unsatisfactory union. Even though LGBT couples enjoy many standard marriage rights, they still have to contend with issues that may make it more complicated to get a divorce than heterosexual couples. These issues include state laws on same-sex relationships that can affect the distribution of inheritances and pensions.
As a result, when you are considering a divorce, it is crucial to hire an attorney with in-depth knowledge of LGBT legal issues from a historical perspective as well as the nuances of your state's marriage regulations.
This is especially important if you have moved to another state since your marriage. The state you moved to may have different laws regarding your rights as an LGBT citizen that may impact your divorce proceedings.
Kids and Adoption
If you and your same-sex spouse have children, your divorce will be more complicated than a straightforward uncontested divorce, even if your split is amicable. A judge will have to approve plans for child custody, child support, visitations and other issues related to parenting. If you and your spouse cannot agree to terms, the judge will set the terms for you based on their opinion of what is best for your children.
Unfortunately, if you are not the biological parent, you may have to contend with discriminatory laws that prevent you from obtaining full custody of your children even if you are clearly the more fit parent.
Adoption laws for non-biological parents vary from state-to-state. If you and spouse have foster children and kids from a previous marriage, you will also be at the mercy of state laws that may not be so favorable to LGBT couples. For example, in Mississippi, LGBT citizens as well as same-sex couples are forbidden from adopting children. So if your spouse gave birth to a child, you would not have any legal rights to seeking custody.
Child custody negotiations can be heart wrenching. This underscores the need for being sure that your attorney has an excellent track record with cases involving LGBT marriage dissolution in your state.
While the Supreme Court ruling was huge step forward in equality for LGBT couples, there are still some gray areas when it comes to spousal benefits after a divorce. Generally, you can receive Social Security benefits from your ex if you were married for at least ten years, are currently unmarried, and are over 65 years old. However, given the relative newness of the nationwide marriage ruling, some federal benefits are still being ironed out for LGBT couples. This not only includes Social Security benefits, but veteran's spousal benefits, pensions and retirement plans as well.
If you believe you will need to fight for any of these types of benefits, consult with your attorney to get the assistance of an accountant as well to help you sort through your finances and secure the benefits you deserve after a divorce.