Wail Sarieh
By: Wail Sarieh

What Are The Options For LGBT Couples Who Want To End Their Marriage?

Divorce

A number of options are open in California for married LGBT couples who are seeking to divorce. If you are seeking to end an LGBT marriage in southern California, it is important to discuss your options as soon as possible with an experienced Orange County divorce attorney.

In the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the United States Supreme Court ended all legal prohibitions on same-sex marriages in all fifty states.

But how did that Supreme Court decision affect divorce laws in the various states? And what are your options for an LGBT divorce in California?

Previously, many spouses in LGBT marriages discovered barriers to obtaining a divorce in a number of states. For instance, same-sex married couples who moved to states that did not recognize same-sex marriages found that they could not obtain a divorce in those states.

HOW DID THE SUPREME COURT CHANGE THE LAW IN 2015?

However, since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, getting married and getting a divorce is now easier in every state for LGBT couples, although in some states the legal details are still somewhat murky and still must be addressed by the courts and the legislatures.

The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which was tossed out by the Supreme Court in 2015, allowed states to refuse to honor same-sex marriages that were conducted in other states. States were not obligated to treat a same-sex marriage from another state as a legitimate marriage.

Additionally – and this is important – the Defense of Marriage Act allowed an ex-spouse who was ordered in one state to pay alimony to sidestep that responsibility by relocating to another state that did not honor same-sex marriages and would not enforce a same-sex alimony order.

CAN LGBT COUPLES STILL FACE OBSTACLES WHEN THEY DIVORCE?

The Obergefell ruling, however, now requires every state to honor a same-sex marriage that was conducted in any of the other states. Married LGBT couples now legally enjoy a constitutional right to both marriage and divorce in all fifty states.

american rights

Nevertheless, some same-sex couples may face legal obstacles when they decide to divorce. If the legal situation is complicated, or if any children are involved, divorcing LGBT partners must have the advice of a family law attorney who is familiar with the statutes and the procedures.

No one needs to be “guilty” or at-fault in a California divorce. This is a no-fault divorce state, and either partner may legally dissolve a marriage for any reason. However, you should let a qualified divorce lawyer help you decide which option is best for ending your own marriage.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OPTIONS FOR ENDING A MARRIAGE?

LGBT couples in California have the same options for ending a marriage relationship that all married couples have. Those options include arbitration, mediation, or legal separation. Some LGBT marriages may also meet the requirements for an annulment or an uncontested divorce.

In divorce mediation, an impartial mediator facilitates the process as the divorcing spouses attempt to find common ground on matters such as spousal support and child custody. However, a mediator does not have the authority or power to impose agreements regarding those matters.

Mediation typically requires a few weeks or several months. The partners may have their own attorneys advise them and review or even draft the agreements that may be reached. You can find out more about mediation by meeting with a reliable southern California divorce attorney.

WHAT IS ARBITRATION? HOW DOES IT WORK?

Arbitration is another widely-used method of dissolving a marriage in this state. Arbitrators can often resolve the issues in a divorce situation quite swiftly. And when the divorcing spouses agree in advance to accept an arbitrator’s decisions, arbitration is final.

arbitration in a divorce

In an arbitrated divorce, lawyers for each side offer arguments and evidence, and witnesses may be called to testify. Based on what is offered, an arbitrator imposes the final terms and conditions of the divorce. If you choose an arbitrated divorce, selecting the right arbitrator is essential.

LGBT partners who are ending a marriage should also consider the legal separation option. When a couple legally separates, they remain married but do not share a residence. However, merely living separately from your spouse does not constitute “legal” separation in California.

Partners must file papers with the court to establish a legal separation. Some choose separation in order to keep benefits – such as insurance coverage – that would be lost in a divorce. Others try separation because they are not yet completely sure whether or not they truly want to divorce.

WHAT ABOUT HAVING A MARRIAGE ANNULLED?

If you need to have a court rule that your marriage isn’t legally valid – meaning that the marriage did not legally “really” happen – you will want to have the marriage annulled. Very few marriages meet the conditions for an annulment, and annulments are rarely granted in California.

divorced couples

If your marriage has lasted for less than five years and no issues are disputed, you may qualify for an uncontested divorce, but there are other requirements, so not every marriage will qualify. However, if you do qualify for an uncontested divorce, it can be handled by a single attorney.

In fact, no matter which option for ending your marriage you and your spouse finally choose, when you can cooperate and agree on matters like alimony, the division of property and assets, child custody, and child support, it pays.

WHAT CAN INCREASE THE COST OF YOUR DIVORCE?

When a number of issues are in dispute and a divorce trial is required – and particularly if one spouse simply refuses to offer any cooperation – a divorce procedure can drag out for weeks and even for months. As you might guess, that increases the costs.

A divorce is much easier and significantly less costly when the spouses can find common ground, and an experienced Orange County divorce attorney can help.

WHAT WILL A DIVORCE LAW FIRM IN CA DO ON YOUR BEHALF?

When a marriage ends, what is most important is making absolutely certain that your interests – and your children, if you are a parent – are fully protected.

children in a marriage

Whether your marriage ends with arbitration, mediation, annulment, a legal separation, or a more conventional divorce proceeding, you must be advised and represented – as early as possible in the legal process – by an attorney who will look out for your rights and your interests.

If you are ending an LGBT marriage in California, speak at once with a reliable divorce lawyer about your options and about any difficulties you may face obtaining an LGBT divorce. Have your divorce attorney answer your questions and address all of your concerns. That is your right.

Wail Sarieh
By Wail Sarieh