Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the United States already face many legal obstacles, despite the progress that has been made for the community as a whole in recent years. Especially since the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969, LGBT Americans have fought to win civil rights pertaining to their employment, housing, and other areas where they may face discrimination, with many victories along the way. The early 21st century, however, has been marked by the fight for marriage equality as more states across the nation have begun allowing same-sex unions. Couples who legally marry or enter into state-sanctioned domestic partnerships are able to have some or all of the rights given to legally married heterosexual couples.
However, with marriage equality sweeping the nation, many same-sex couples also have the unfortunate experience of divorce or separation. Because of the legal “gray area” of same-sex unions throughout the different parts of the country, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which legal rights same-sex couples and their children have in a split — especially if that marriage may have happened in another state. Adding to that, another challenge is finding a separation lawyer who handles cases for same-sex couples and can address the concerns that these couples will have concerning their legal rights.
Whether or not you have married legally in the state or not, one of the first steps in your split will be finding a separation lawyer or divorce attorney who can handle your case. Meeting with an attorney is a good first step in determining the challenges and potential outcomes of your case. Finding a separation attorney will also give couples the chance to review and update their legal documents, such as wills, power of attorney forms, contracts, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and paperwork for adoptions.
On that note, another factor in the split is children. As of 2012, the Census Bureau reported that approximately 25.3% of all same-sex couple households in the U.S. had children living with them. With some couples, the fight for child custody may be fairly one-sided, especially if those children resulted from one partner’s previous relationship. Couples who have had children together, through adoption or other means, face a different battle altogether. While mothers are more likely to receive a primary child custody award than fathers (79.6% of the time vs. 29.6% of the time), these numbers don’t predict much about a split for a same-sex couple. In order to get a good idea of where the children will end up and how much child support one partner will pay to the other, it’s essential to meet with a family law attorney who helps same-sex couples and their families.
Just as same-sex marriage is still a legal hurdle in some states, the challenges for same-sex couples looking to separate or divorce are also difficult. But they aren’t alone in this fight. If you are in this situation, make sure you take plenty of time finding a separation lawyer or divorce lawyer who can handle your case.