With the legalization of same-sex marriages in Connecticut, it seemed only a matter of time before courts would have to address issues around same-sex divorces. To be sure, same-sex divorces are making national headlines as gay and lesbian couples seek to formally end their marriage relationships.
Part of the challenge is that not all states recognize same-sex marriages, therefore not all states are equipped to deal with the challenge of same-sex divorces. Generally speaking, the right to obtain a divorce in any state depends on two factors. First, the parties must have a legal relationship that is recognized by that state. Second, the married persons must meet the state’s residency requirements.
Once more, a small percentage of U.S. states recognize same-sex marriages. That means same-sex couples who seek to obtain a legal divorce in states that don’t allow same-sex marriages will meet with courts that aren’t prepared to handle the case.
Consider this example. If both members in the same-sex marriage lived in Connecticut at the time of their union, but move to another state that fails to accept same-sex marriages, that couple can’t legally divorce in the new states because they aren’t legally married there. And that’s not the only challenge. The same-sex couple who moved to the new state no longer qualifies for Connecticut residency and therefore is not eligible to obtain a divorce there.
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.
While obtaining same-sex divorce in Connecticut is “conventional” in all respects – including the jurisdictional requirements, grounds, division of property, child custody, alimony, and so on-gay and lesbian couples considering contracting a same-sex marriage in Connecticut should prepare for the possibility that they may relocate outside the state during their marriage and be left with no practical means of ending it if the need arises.