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How Divorce May Differ for LGBTQ Couples

Divorce is a difficult process for all couples, including within the LGBTQ community. Although same-sex marriage is officially recognized in the United States, there are unique considerations that must be made when moving forward with divorce and family law issues.

For couples considering divorce, it is essential to remember that untangling lives and relationships affected by decades of discrimination can often make divorces more complex than usual. To ensure that your rights are all adequately defended, it is wise to seek a lawyer with experience handling same-sex divorce cases.

What are some issues that the LGBTQ community is faced with during a divorce?

The United States Supreme Court ruling in 2013 was an important milestone for LGBTQ couples in America, and Virginia officially recognized same-sex marriage in the fall of 2014. As a result, married LGBTQ couples now have the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples regarding marriage. Rights and responsibilities include making critical financial decisions, such as filing joint taxes or having access to spousal medical benefits. Although less discussed, it’s also important to recognize that marriage grants same-sex couples the same legal right to petition for divorce as heterosexual married partners. 

The divorce process for LGBTQ couples may differ in several ways from that of heterosexual couples. Here are some potential differences:

  1. Property division: LGBTQ couples may have unique challenges when dividing assets and property if they were not legally recognized as married or domestic partners before the recognition of same-sex marriage. Property division issues may include dividing property purchased before marriage, retirement accounts, and inheritance.
  2. Child custody: LGBTQ couples may have children through various methods such as adoption, surrogacy, or donor insemination. In some cases, only one parent may be recognized as a legal parent, which can create issues during the divorce process.
  3. Spousal support: Depending on the state’s laws, same-sex couples may only have been able to marry legally recently, so the length of a relationship may not be recognized for spousal support purposes.
  4. Discrimination: Unfortunately, LGBTQ individuals and couples may still face discrimination during the divorce process, such as discriminatory treatment by court officials or difficulty finding a lawyer who is experienced with LGBTQ issues.
  5. Jurisdiction: LGBTQ couples may need to consider jurisdiction when filing for divorce. They might need to file for divorce in a different state if they were married in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

What are the requirements for same-sex couples to consider within family law?

If a same-sex couple wishes to seek a divorce in Virginia, they must know the state’s requirements. All couples must have had at least one partner living in the state for six months before filing a petition; however, it is essential to note that if the same-sex marriage was not legally recognized in the state where it was performed, then it will not be legally recognized in Virginia and thus be ineligible for the divorce process. In such cases, consulting with an experienced divorce attorney with extensive knowledge can help determine if your marriage is eligible for a divorce under Virginia law.

Contact us with your LGBTQ questions.

At Mahoney Richmond Thurston, PLLC, we understand that divorce can be incredibly daunting and challenging for anyone. For LGBTQ couples, everything from custody arrangements to division of marital property to even basic questions of legal recognition can often create even more hurdles in a stressful situation. 

We are here to help LGBTQ clients navigate these unique issues with knowledge and expertise they can trust – our team has years of experience serving the diverse needs of families needing divorce counsel. You don’t have to face your divorce alone – contact us today to receive your customized case review with one of our skilled divorce lawyers.