Because the laws of Massachusetts did not recognize the marriage of LGBTQIA+ couples for so many years, these couples face added challenges when they divorce. The laws covering many questions are still evolving. It is important to work with a legal team that knows how to recognize and act to avoid the potential pitfalls.
Establishing the Right Start Date for the Marriage
In traditional divorce cases, several factors are decided on the basis of the date the couple held a marriage ceremony. However, the situation is complicated for many LGBTQIA+ couples. Because they could not legally marry, many couples lived together and shared financial arrangements without the protection of a legal acknowledgement of their relationship. Some couples entered into formal civil unions or domestic partnerships. Others traveled to one jurisdiction to get married but returned to live in a jurisdiction that did not legally recognize their marriage.
Determining a fair and equitable start date for a marriage in these situations can be very difficult.
Property Division Becomes Complicated
When a divorcing couple divides property and allocates debts, they usually split up property that is considered marital, meaning it was acquired during the course of the marriage. Property they owned or debts incurred before the marriage are generally treated as that partner’s own separate assets or obligations.
As noted above, however, the legal start date of the marriage may not truly reflect the reality of the marital relationship for many LGBTQIA+ couples. It is important to ensure that your attorney knows how to make the legal arguments to support your position and obtain a fair division of property and debts.
Alimony Issues Also Raise Difficulties
When deciding whether one divorcing spouse should pay support to the other, courts typically consider the length of time a couple has been married. Generally, the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that the court will award alimony to enable the lesser-earning spouse to maintain some semblance of their former lifestyle while they develop their earning potential. If the date the marriage was legally recognized differs dramatically from the date the couple began living as spouses, then this poses a challenge.
Child Custody and Support
When a divorcing LGBTQIA+ couple parents a child together in Massachusetts, they often need to take additional steps to secure parental rights and child support. In many cases, only one partner may have a biological relationship with the child, such as when one partner bears a child after in vitro fertilization. After a divorce, the partner without a biological connection may not have any parental rights, including the right to visitation or custody.
That partner also might not have any obligation to pay child support. To protect the rights of both spouses and the interests of their children, it is important to take the right legal steps to establish the legal parental connection. This might include legal adoption or other arrangements depending on the situation.
Work with an Attorney Prepared to Protect Your Interests in LGBTQIA+ Divorce
In any divorce, it is important to work with a knowledgeable attorney who is prepared to stand up to protect your best interests. In a LGBTQIA+ divorce, the right knowledge and attention to detail is even more critical.
The dedicated team at Koiles Pratt Family Law Group understands how crucial issues can affect both the process and the outcome, and we are ready to help you move forward to your best life ahead after divorce. Contact us today for a confidential consultation to learn more about the many ways we can help.