Potential property division issues for same-sex couples

As readers likely know, Massachusetts was one of the first jurisdictions to legalize same-sex marriage. However, same-sex couples may have concerns about how their martial status will be regarded by other states, in the event they move.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not directly addressed this issue, although its ruling last year on the Defense of Marriage Act made it illegal to deny federal benefits legally married same-sex couples. But as a recent article questioned, what happens when a same-sex couple simply wants to legally divide their property in a jurisdiction that doesn’t recognize their marriage?

As this discussion illustrates, the laws on divorce are quickly changing. In addition, a number of corollary issues, such as tax matters, may also require an attorney that is current on the latest legal developments. Even the definition of the marital estate might be subject to reinterpretation, based on the most current law.

With the help of an attorney, an individual can identify all assets that should be included in the valuation of the marital estate, even easily forgotten or hidden assets like socks, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies. If a couple cannot agree on a mutual approach to property division, an attorney can work to compile arguments that support an arrangement that is fair. Since Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, a number of factors might influence that showing, including the length of the marriage, the age, health and conduct of a spouse during the marriage, the needs of each spouse, and any other equitable factors.

Source: Al.com, “Should Alabama allow same-sex couples married elsewhere to divorce here?” Brian Lawson, Mar. 11, 2014

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