Prior to June 27, 2015, there were only several states in the U.S. that allowed for same sex couples to get married. Now, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that same sex marriages are legal and recognized in all of the states, meaning that same sex couples now have equal rights to get married as all other Americans. This is a huge development and advancement of rights for same sex couples and one that will likely lead to a wave of same sex couples entering into marriage over the next few years.
So what does that mean for existing domestic partnerships and for same sex married couples that seek to get divorced in the future in California? Because although same sex couples will appreciate their right to get married and will value the institution of marriage perhaps more than heterosexual couples who have always taken their right to get married for granted, same sex couples have the same relationship issues and problems that everyone else has that can lead to the deterioration and end of relationships. Inevitably, some same sex married couples will seek divorce, although no one knows what such rate of divorce will be for that segment of the population.
Also, those same sex couples that are part of a registered domestic partnership in California will now have the option of getting married and the length of their domestic partnership will be added to the length of the marriage for purposes of spousal support and division of assets, although the case law in California has not caught up to this situation quite yet, but undoubtedly will.
Furthermore, domestic partners and married same sex couples will now be under the jurisdiction of the California Family Code and case law just like heterosexual married couples are, which will apply to them when they seek to terminate their partnership or marriage. In other words, if parties look to end their registered domestic partnership or same sex marriage, they are in for much the same process as traditional divorce cases and involve most of the same issues, especially if same sex couples decide to legally adopt a child, as follows:
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Spousal support
- Division of assets and property
It is a new world for same sex couples as they embrace their new rights and the final wall of inequality has been broken down. It will also lead to a new world for divorce and family in California and the other states. But in the end, it is important to recognize that we are all the same and we all have our faults and problems, which can ultimately lead to divorce. Same sex couples will not be immune to marital problems or to divorce any more than heterosexual couples, because a successful marriage is hard work for everyone.
Gerald A. Maggio is a trained Orange County divorce mediator who has amicably resolved cases many cases out of court, as well as an experienced divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Maggio founded California Divorce Mediators in 2012 with the belief that although “not every marriage can be saved, every family can” and a mission to save families from the financial and emotional distress associated with traditional divorce litigation. California Divorce Mediators is located in Irvine, California, and serves the Orange County area and other counties in California offering divorce mediation, child custody mediation and mediation of other family law matters.