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National patchwork of marriage laws complicates same-sex divorce

Same-sex marriage has been one of the most prominent family law issues during the last several years. A growing number of states are approving unions between gay and lesbian couples, but Florida only recognizes marriage between opposite-sex couples. However, nothing can stop Florida residents from traveling to one of the states where they can legally be married.

Although legally performed same-sex marriages are recognized by the federal government, Florida law does not provide the same recognition. This can create a number of complications for LGBT couples, particularly if they wish to get divorced or settle a child custody issue.

Generally speaking, family law issues are governed on the state level. As a result of this, there is a flurry of action in several states to approve same-sex marriage either through legislation, the ballot box or the court system. In Texas, two same-sex couples are looking to get divorced. Both of the couples were legally married in Massachusetts. After years of court action and a variety of verdicts, their cases will be heard by the Texas Supreme Court.

The state's attorney general argues that if the state recognizes same-sex divorce, it must also recognize same-sex marriage, which would challenge the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex unions. However, the couples' attorney says that the state does not necessarily have to recognize both marriage and divorce. Depending on how the state's top court rules, it could set the tone for other states with similar laws and cases.

Having a legally recognized divorce means that the law will provide a structure and protections to each spouse as they split up. In states where same-sex unions aren't recognized, it may be helpful for couples to sign a domestic partnership agreement if they decide to exchange vows in another state. Signing this type of legal arrangement can provide a greater sense of security should for couples should their circumstances change.

Source: San Antonio Express, "Texas court is cautious on allowing gay divorce," Peggy Fikac, Nov. 5, 2013

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