Same Sex Couples Face Special Challenges When Divorcing in Massachusetts
While it may seem more and more states are legalizing same sex marriage each year; the actual process and legalities associated with same sex marriage are still in their infancy. As the legal issues surrounding same sex marriage have been brought to the forefront of the family law sector and courts, so have the challenges and legal issues behind same sex divorce. The hard fought battle to win the right to legally marry has naturally been followed by the reality heterosexual couples already contend with—the fact that nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce. The same trend in marriage viability that has been consistent for heterosexual unions is proving to be a reality for same sex couples; yet there are unique challenges that many may not even realize when it comes to securing a same sex divorce in Massachusetts.
Asset & Property Division Laws in MA
Just as with any divorce, there are unique issues that need to be worked out equitably. Details such as division of assets, financial accounts, insurance coverage, child custody arrangements and other issues should be handled and protected by an experienced legal representative. However, aside from the typical dissolution of marriage decisions, same sex couples have additional roadblocks to reaching a legal, fair and timely end to their union. One legal roadblock in Massachusetts is the residency restriction on divorcing in Massachusetts. If you traveled to Massachusetts to wed because Massachusetts was one of the first states to legalize same sex marriage, you may not be able to obtain a divorce in your current state of residency. If the state you legally reside in now with your spouse, or soon to be ex-spouse, does not recognize same sex marriage, then you may not be able to get divorced there legally. Many may assume they can simply visit Massachusetts and file for divorce just as they visited and filed for a marriage license. However, this isn’t an easy process either. As part of residency restrictions in Massachusetts, you need to live in Massachusetts for one year before filing for divorce. The only exception is if the grounds for divorce took place in the state of Massachusetts. While moving to the state for a year may not be impossible for some, it surely would pose a challenge for most. It would more than likely entail changing jobs, selling a home, renting or buying a new residence, and possibly uprooting children.
Same Sex Benefit Restrictions and Federal Laws
Another unique set of challenges for couples seeking same sex divorce through the Massachusetts family court system is the current fact that the federal government does not recognize any same sex marriage from any state. If one of the soon to be ex-spouses has a federal job, federal pension, or is receiving social security payments, then these payments, benefits or pensions can’t be split, counted as assets in any divorce settlement or considered for alimony. Alimony payments made to an ex-spouse from a same sex union also currently can’t be claimed as a tax deduction as that union is not legal in the eyes of the federal government, therefore the divorce and all finances pertaining to it have no validity.
Benefits to Hiring an Experienced Same Sex Divorce Attorney
While these unique challenges may change over time as more states and perhaps eventually the federal government recognizes same sex marriages and divorces on the same plane, for now the challenges remain for anyone seeking to dissolve a same sex marriage in Massachusetts. The emotional turmoil and upheaval of normal daily life that encompasses any divorce can be overwhelming and challenging in itself. The added legal challenges of same sex divorce can make the entire process all the more traumatic and life-altering.
The skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate representatives at Anna Shapiro, Esq., PC can help couples navigate this new territory and ensure a fair and equitable outcome. While same sex rights and marriages are still evolving, we are able to stay on top of these changes and challenges so you get up to date legal advice and can know what to expect and how best to proceed with a divorce in Massachusetts. With a passion for protecting all of our clients, the legal representatives at Anna Shapiro, Esq., PC can and will pursue the best possible outcome for your unique situation.
By Anna Shapiro, Esq., PC
400 West Cummings Park Suite 3900
Woburn, MA 01801