The U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision on June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges eliminated legal prohibitions against same-sex marriage in the United States. Accordingly, the Obergefell ruling legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S., including its possessions and territories. It also required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize legal same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. This is key because previously not all states recognized same-sex marriage and made divorce impossible. Same-sex couples now have a fundamental right to obtain a divorce in California without regard to their state of residence.
As a result of the ruling, getting married and getting divorced are now much easier for same-sex couples across the United States. It is important to understand that same-sex divorce is still a new concept. Some of the legal details regarding same-sex marriage may remain unclear, particularly in some states, and the courts will need to address those issues over time as case law develops. For this reason, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand the benefits of the Obergefell ruling and your legal options.
Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, same-sex couples may face some legal difficulties if they choose to end their relationship. A common problem is when same-sex couples who did not have access to marriage opted for civil unions or domestic partnerships instead. Unions and partnerships are legally comparable to marriage, but not all states recognize these types of arrangements, making it difficult to dissolve these civil unions or domestic partnerships. In these circumstances, an individual considering divorce will need the advice of a family lawyer.
Although the Obergefell ruling allows same-sex marriage at the federal level, those involved will need to refer to their own state’s laws and consult a family law attorney who is familiar with California divorce laws for same-sex couples.
Are There Alternatives to Same-Sex Divorce?
Same-sex couples who want to end their marriage in California may have options other than divorce. Dependent on the circumstances, couples in this state can choose annulment or legal separation instead of divorce. An annulment means that a court states that your marriage isn’t legally valid or that it never “really” happened. Annulments are rarely ordered and may only be granted by a judge under specific circumstances.
A legal separation in the state of California is neither an annulment or a divorce. It is an agreement by spouses to live apart. This is good option for some same-sex couples so they can continue to qualify for various benefits, such as medical insurance. When spouses must file for legal separation status, they will have to come to an agreement on issues like the division of assets and property. If the couple cannot come to a mutual agreement, it will be decided by a judge.
The Obergefell ruling removed a variety of legal barriers for thousands of same-sex couples in California and other states. It gave same-sex couples the right to marry in any state and the ability to divorce and be eligible for spousal support as well. Yet, it left additional questions unanswered, and plenty of confusion and interpretation remains. Same-sex divorce is a new concept and as such, an individual should seek legal guidance from a divorce lawyer to protect his or her rights.