Alimony and Other Possible Complications of Same-Sex Divorce

Q: Are there any special concerns a same-sex couple faces when divorcing?

Shortly after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian couples – – many whose relationships had spanned decades – – rushed to the local courthouse steps to legalize their unions and officially get married. But just like heterosexual couples, some are finding that while getting married is now easy, it doesn’t always last forever.

Same-sex divorce is what may be complicated now, as couples face some issues that are different from heterosexual couples who split–at a time when laws are still evolving and the interpretation of existing laws is inconsistent.

Alimony or spousal support is one of those tricky issues.  Generally, in determining whether one spouse will pay spousal support to the other low- or no-earning spouse, a judge will consider the length of the marriage. The longer the marriage, the more likely support may be appropriate. Determining when the couple’s union began is complicated in cases where they were together long before being able to get legally married only two years ago. Some states may consider “backdating” to add on additional years if supporting evidence of cohabitation, joint bank accounts, etc. is presented, but there are no guarantees.

In addition, child custody and visitation, referred to in Arizona as “legal decision-making and parenting time” can be complicated in same-sex divorces where oftentimes only one partner may have legal parental rights, as we have previously reported in this blog.

Depending on the relationship same-sex couples, as well as heterosexual couples, may benefit from dissolving their marriage with the help of divorce mediation attorneys. Mediation allows the couple control of their post-divorce obligations and responsibilities, rather than allowing a judge to determine such important issues. This is especially important in the relatively new era of same-sex divorce where the slow pace of new laws and resulting wider judicial discretion make outcomes more unpredictable.

If you are considering divorce, Cohen Family Law can help you through this difficult transition. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, we’ve been serving families in transition throughout Arizona since 1982.