- Published: Wednesday, 19 November 2014 01:28
With more and more of the American public in favor of allowing same-sex marriage than ever before, and the Supreme Court deciding not hear many new cases, the tide is clearly turning in favor of equal rights.
Many same-sex couples jumped at the opportunity to get married when Washington, DC became the first jurisdiction south of the Mason-Dixon line to legalize gay marriage. In 2009, then mayor Adrian Fenty signed a bill passed by the city council that passed congressional review. The first marriage licenses were issued in March of the following year.
While this was considered a great stride in the LGBT rights movement, as could be expected, not every marriage was destined to last. As a Washington, DC divorce attorney who handles cases involving same-sex marriage, I would like to discuss some of the questions prospective clients may have.
One question is whether there is any difference in the process for obtaining a same-sex divorce. In Washington, DC, the requirements for getting a divorce are the same for all couples regardless of sexual orientation, with one exception.
The District of Columbia Code has a residency requirement for those filing for divorce that requires at least one spouse to have lived in Washington, DC for no less than six months prior to filing for a divorce. However, if you entered into a same-sex marriage in Washington, DC, and neither you nor your spouse currently lives in DC but lives in a state that does not permit same-sex divorce, you may file for a divorce in the District of Columbia.
This issue comes up more than one might think, because unlike many states, Washington, DC does not have a residency requirement to get married. Many came to the District to enter into a same-sex marriage when their home state did not allow them to do so.
This Washington, DC same-sex divorce residency exemption is different than many other jurisdictions that still maintain a residency requirement. For that reason, we are seeing parties traveling to the District to obtain a divorce, just as they once did to get married. Obviously, this trip is not the happy occasion of the previous one, but you should be treated with the respect and dignity you deserve during such an emotional process, and there is no reason for the process to be any more uncomfortable than absolutely necessary, so you can get on with the rest of your life.
There may be other issues that can complicate a same-sex divorce, such as issues pertaining to spousal support or alimony and property division when one or both spouses reside in a state where same-sex marriage is not recognized.
While it seems that this issue may be changing, as more jurisdictions and the federal government recognize same-sex marriage, currently, it is best to speak with a divorce attorney who is familiar with the issues surrounding same sex divorce and will take the time to work with clients and assist in facing these new challenges.
If you are in need of assistance with a same-sex divorce or any other family law issue, please contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross for a confidential consultation by calling (202) 596-5716.