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Same-sex couples face unique issues in the divorce process

2015 saw a monumental decision by the United States Supreme Court. That year the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the same right to marry, just as heterosexual couples did. This meant that same-sex marriage was made legal in Tennessee and every other state in the nation. Of course, this also meant that, once married, same-sex couples also had the right to seek a legal divorce. And, it is becoming apparent that couples going through a same-sex divorce may face some issues that heterosexual couples do not face.

First of all, while a same-sex couple may only have been legally wed for a year or two, they could have been in a romantic relationship with one another for many years prior to their marriage. Oftentimes, this means that they cohabitated together, purchased big assets such as a home together and were raising a child together, whether through adoption, surrogacy, via a sperm donor or by some other means.

Many times, when it comes to property division and alimony in a divorce, courts will take into consideration the length of the marriage. But, with a same-sex divorce, the court must take into consideration the fact that even if a couple was only married for one or two years, their relationship may actually be much older. This means that the court may need to use its discretion when determining how to divide assets or whether to award spousal support in a same-sex divorce.

Child custody decisions can also be difficult to make in a same-sex divorce. This is often because for same-sex couples that had a child prior to getting married, even if they were both raising the child together, for legal purposes only one of them may have technically been the child's parent. Therefore, if the couple later got married and subsequently decided to a divorce, this could impede the non-legal parent's ability to pursue child custody.

These are only a few legal issues that could come up in a same-sex divorce. Same-sex couples in Tennessee who want to divorce may want to seek the advice they need to better understand same-sex family law, so they can make informed decisions.

Source: CNBC, "Same-sex divorce poses complications for some splitting couples," Sarah O'Brien, Nov. 10, 2017

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Mathis, Bates & Klinghard PLLC
412 Franklin Street
Clarksville, TN 37040

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