As more same-sex couples begin to marry in Connecticut, another legal issue is arising in the New England state: same-sex divorces. Newspaper headlines are chronicling same-sex divorce cases springing up in many states as couples seek to end marriage relationships.
The key challenge in the same-sex divorce arena is simple: Only a few states recognize same-sex marriages and the issue of same-sex divorce is still new even in those states. It’s important to keep in mind two factors that impact the right to obtain a divorce in any U.S. state. The parties are required to have a legal relationship the state recognizes and the married couple has to meet the state’s residency requirements.
Again, only a few states allow same-sex marriages. So same-sex couples who seek to divorce in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages often find obstacles to a legal separation.
Let’s say both members of the same-sex marriage lived in Connecticut when they got married, but later move to a state where their marriage is not “legal.” That couple cannot get a divorce in the state to which they moved because they are not considered legally married. But another complication arises. That same couple can’t get a divorce in Connecticut, either, because they no longer meet Connecticut’s residency requirements.
What about states that do recognize same-sex marriages? What are the legal parameters for getting divorced? Let’s use Connecticut again as our example. A same-sex couple that gets married in Connecticut can obtain a divorce there as long as one of the parties still resides in Connecticut at the time of the divorce action. Same-sex couples who make a transitory visit to Connecticut for the purposes of becoming married will not thereby confer divorce jurisdiction on the Connecticut courts.
Simply stated, same-sex divorce in Connecticut is conventional. In other words, same-sex couples have to meet the jurisdictional requirements, grounds, division of property, child custody, alimony, and so on. That means gay and lesbian couples who want to enter into a legal marriages in Connecticut need to be aware that a divorce might not be immediately possible if they move out of the state during the marriage.