Divorce for LGBTQIA+ Couples: Avoiding Potential Pitfalls

During Pride Month, we celebrate the victories and look ahead to address the challenges members of the LGBTQIA+ community face. Perhaps surprisingly, some of those challenges involve divorce.

Although LGBTQIA+ marriages have full legal rights and the divorce process is the same for all couples, LGBTQIA+ couples need to be aware of some potential problems that can affect them during and after a divorce. To protect your interests, your divorce attorney needs to be aware of the potential pitfalls and know how to develop a strategy to address these issues.

Defining and Dividing Marital Property

In every divorce, lawyers know they can expect to deal with conflict over certain issues. One of those is how the couple will divide the property they own together and the debts they acquired together. The first task is to determine which assets and debts are marital—belonging to both—and which are separate property that belongs solely to one partner.

Generally, in Ohio, the things you own and debts you incurred before you were married remain yours individually. The money you earn, the property you acquire, and the debts you take on while you are married belong to both of you.

The problem for many LGBTQIA+ couples is that it can be difficult to determine when the marriage truly started. Ohio did not legally recognize LGBTQIA+ marriage until 2015. Many couples who formalized their marriages after that recognition had already been living together in committed relationships for years. Some had been married in states that allow LGBTQIA+ marriage. Some spent time in states that recognize common law marriage. So is it fair to consider that their marriage did not begin until 2015?

Spousal Support Issues

The start date of a marriage not only determines the timeline for the marital property but also substantially affects issues associated with spousal support or alimony. The longer a couple has been married, the more likely it is that one spouse will cut back on career development to focus on home life. That spouse earns less and loses more career potential with each passing year.

When that couple divorces, the spouse who has sacrificed career goals to build the family’s home life will be at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to self-support. Courts recognize this, which is why they are more likely to award spousal support to couples who are married longer. If a couple lived together in a committed relationship for 20 years but their marriage could only legally be recognized in the state for seven years, is it fair to treat it as a seven-year marriage? If you are seeking alimony, make sure your divorce lawyer knows how to demonstrate the full value you provided to the marriage and the reasons you should receive support.

Child Custody and Visitation

If your marriage involves children, it is important to be aware of your standing when it comes to parental rights. Your child might be biologically related to one partner but not the other. The partner without a biological relationship could be left with no parental rights in divorce unless they have formally adopted the child.

Protect Your Rights with Help from Attorneys Who Understand LGBTQIA+ Divorce

At Weis Law Group, we know how to address the issues LGBTQIA+ couples face in divorce and we are ready to protect your interests both now and in the future. To learn more about how we could help you move forward to your best life ahead, contact our dedicated team to set up a confidential consultation.