The LGBTQ community has made significant progress related to marriage equality. If you are in a same-sex marriage and it has dissolved, you will need to navigate the divorce process. Some couples opt to pursue a legal separation to give them more time before pursuing a legal divorce. When a same-sex marriage ends, the couple must go through the same divorce process as any other couple.
The attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace are committed to representing all soon-to-be divorced individuals, including those in same-sex relationships. We can help you resolve your spousal support concerns, equitable distribution disputes, and other divorce-related issues while you work through your divorce to begin moving forward with your life. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace to schedule your initial case evaluation.
The Same-Sex Divorce Process
Pennsylvania legalized same-sex marriage in 2014, thanks to a federal district court ruling. In 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage must be legalized nationwide. Before May 2014, same-sex couples would get married in other states and move to Pennsylvania, but they would only receive partial recognition of their marriage. Now same-sex marriage is equal to any other marriage in Pennsylvania.
Same-sex couples have access to the same benefits and must undergo many procedures as straight couples. Marriage can make cohabitation agreements null, so it’s recommended that same-sex couples create prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. Doing so can make dividing and distributing assets easier during a same-sex divorce.
Dividing and Distributing Your Assets and Debts
Many assume that couples will retain half of their total assets and property when they divorce. Pennsylvania courts do not divide assets and property equally. Instead, judges will equitably divide all marital property, assets, and debts.
As you go through a same-sex divorce, it’s essential that you make a list of the property that is most important to you. Your attorney can help you negotiate to keep the property you want after the divorce is finalized. Your attorney can also help you determine which property is considered marital property and which is separate. A spouse’s separate property will remain with that spouse after the divorce, while the marital property will be equitably divided. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse may try to claim that some property is separate so he or she can keep it. Working with a skilled attorney can help protect your marital property claim.
Spousal Support in Same-Sex Divorce Cases
As with other divorces, a spouse in a same-sex marriage may be required to pay spousal support, also known as alimony. Spousal support aims to give the lesser-earning spouse time to obtain the education or job training needed for gainful employment. In most cases, the spouse with higher earnings and more assets will be ordered to pay alimony to the spouse with fewer assets.
Spousal support can be temporary, lasting only through the duration of your divorce proceeding. The court can issue spousal support for a specific time period or indefinitely. Whether the court will award alimony depends on the circumstances of your case. Generally, spouses who haven’t been married for five or more years won’t be required to pay spousal support for a significant period. Whether you are pursuing spousal support or may be required to pay spousal support, the attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace are here to advocate for your best interests.
Child Custody Matters for Same-Sex Couples
Pennsylvania courts always decide child custody matters in a divorce based on the children’s best interests. Courts generally attempt to keep both parents involved in raising their child and prefer to issue child support orders for joint legal and physical custody. Additionally, courts are typically in favor of keeping a child with his or her biological parents. Same-sex couples may face some unique issues regarding child custody determinations. One parent may be the biological parent, while another parent may not be. Biology isn’t always determinative, however. Courts generally favor some form of shared custody agreement whenever possible. Either parent can pursue full or joint custody during the divorce.
What If I Am Not the Biological Parent?
Regarding same-sex child custody proceedings, either parent can establish legal parentage over a child. If you aren’t the biological parent and you’re going through a same-sex divorce, it may help your case if you have or can attempt to adopt the child legally. The court will determine the best interests of the child based on a host of factors, including the child’s emotional relationship with each parent. We will work with you to pursue the child custody arrangement that suits you and your children. We will strongly advocate for your parental rights.
Civil Union Divorce
Before 2014, Pennsylvania didn’t recognize same-sex marriage. However, Pennsylvania did recognize marriages that occurred in other states. Until 2014, Pennsylvania didn’t recognize civil unions, even if the couple had a legally valid civil union from a different state. Consequently, same-sex couples in a civil union could not obtain a divorce in Pennslyvania. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania fixed this legal loophole by ruling that Pennsylvania courts must recognize civil unions as the legal equivalent of same-sex marriages. Civil unions are now subject to Pennsylvania’s divorce laws. As a result, if you were part of a civil union, you can pursue a divorce in Pennsylvania courts.
If you attempt to dissolve your civil union in Pennsylvania, the process is similar to filing for a traditional divorce. It’s crucial that you work with an attorney who understands the unique laws related to same-sex couples. A knowledgeable civil union divorce attorney can answer your questions and help you walk through the process.
Discuss Your Pittsburgh Same-Sex Divorce Case with an Attorney
Working with a same-sex divorce attorney can help you understand your legal option and rights. When your marriage has ended, and you’re ready to pursue your now normal, the attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace are here to help. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace today to schedule your initial consultation.