With Gay Marriage Comes Gay Divorce
With the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, every state must grant and recognize same-sex marriage. In the years since, couples and courts are realizing that with gay marriage also comes gay divorce.
Courts have the legal obligation to grant divorces to same-sex couples. The application of Wisconsin’s Family Code to a same-sex divorce can become a complicated task for attorneys let alone for the couple on their own. For a court to grant a divorce, couples must disclose all assets, debts, and income and allocate all marital property. Wisconsin’s Family Code (Chapter 767) sets forth various presumptions and factors in determining and allocating divisible property, such as length of marriage, gifts and inheritances, and contributions to the marriage. Legal factors are also listed that impact the determination of maintenance, aka spousal support and any child-related issues.
One question with a same-sex marriage in Wisconsin is determining at what point the couple is ‘married’ for purposes of divorce determinations of property division and maintenance. Is it the day the Wisconsin Supreme Court held it unconstitutional to deny same-sex marriage? Is it the day the U.S. Supreme Court held same? Is it the day the couple legally married in another state even though the marriage was not recognized in Wisconsin yet? Is it a period of living in a marriage-like relationship since the couple could not legally marry? If children are involved, there are additional issues about parental rights. Without prior case law, legal issues in a gay divorce can become contentious and can lead to costly attorney fees, frustrating time in court, and high levels of stress.
The Family Mediation Center is a positive approach to resolving all issues required by the court in a private setting with a minimum of conflict and cost. The lawyer mediator will guide the couple through the issues and steps in obtaining court approval. Team members, including financial specialists and family/child specialists, can further assist if needed to help the couple develop a parenting plan and allocate complex assets including business interests. The Family Mediation Center is an option for LGBT couples looking for a cooperative approach to create and implement their own divorce agreement. Though located in Milwaukee, with online mediation this FMC option is available for couples throughout the state of Wisconsin.