Same-sex couples in Pennsylvania can now have their marriages recognized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are constitutional, many people are wondering how that decision will impact the dissolution of these types of unions. Some believe that the nuances of same-sex divorce will have to be worked out in the future through litigation.
The Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law research organization that studies sexual orientation and public policy, says that legally recognized same-sex partnerships dissolve at roughly the same rate as heterosexual marriages. However, same-sex divorce could be different from heterosexual divorce in some ways. A family law professor at Fordham Law School said that gay and lesbian couples are still unsure about what federal marriage privileges they are allowed to take.
Property division issues aren’t likely to be much different in a same-sex divorce than they are when a heterosexual couple is ending their marriage, but child custody disputes could pose new challenges for family court judges. Unless a same-sex couple’s child was adopted, there will likely be one parent who is related to the child biologically. It is unclear if judges will consider whether a child is biologically related to one parent when making a child custody decision.
A person who is going through a same-sex divorce may want to work with an attorney who is familiar with same-sex legal issues. An attorney may be able to help ensure that an individual’s legal rights in terms of property division, child custody and alimony are well represented in negotiations and court hearings.