In 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage should be federally recognized. In the fall of 2014, Virginia officially recognized same-sex marriage. Since then, LGBT couples who are married have the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities as heterosexual marriages. Most people think of these rights in terms of having tax advantages or medical benefits. However, they also include the right to dissolve the marriage. LGBT marriages are beholden to the same divorce requirements as other marriages in Virginia. If you are considering your right to file for divorce, contact a divorce attorney who has experience with LGBT marriages. Divorces for these couples are sometimes more complex than others.
All married couples in Virginia must have at least one partner living in the state for six months before the divorce filing. For same-sex couples, there is one crucial caveat. Their marriage must have been legal in the state they were married in. If their marriage was not legal before they came to Virginia, this state does not legally recognize their union and, therefore, will not grant them a divorce. Their marriage must have been legal at the time it was performed. An experienced divorce attorney has the knowledge and means to help you determine the status of your marriage in this state.
Equitable distribution is the precept that Virginia’s courts base their division of property on in a divorce. It does not necessarily mean everything is divided equally but fairly in a way that does not favor one spouse over another. Virginia’s statute addressing the division of assets in a divorce is not gender-specific. It applies to same-sex and heterosexual marriages.
The problem becomes in determining what is marital property and what is not. If an LGBT couple lived together and considered themselves married before their marriage was legally recognized, the day that their marriage began could have different interpretations by the courts. They could determine that for the purposes of defining marital property, the marriage began when LGBT marriages were legal in Virginia, were legal in the state where the couple was residing in at the time, for as long as the couple has been living together, or when the couple decided that they were married. With so much room for interpretation, it is essential for you to have the representation of a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to receive the property that is rightfully yours in a divorce.
There are many law firms that focus on serving clients who are going through a divorce. However, not all have experience with the unique issues that LGBT couples face in a divorce. At Mahoney Richmond Thurston, PLLC, we are well-versed in these issues and use our knowledge to leverage a better outcome for our clients. Whether you are concerned about the custody of your children, what property is marital property, or something else, we are here to help you. Contact us to schedule your divorce case review today with a skilled divorce lawyer.