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Episode 07: Special Considerations for Gay & Lesbian Divorces

In This Episode, CEO Erin Levine Discusses:

  • Why California law only considers the length of your marriage in divorce and not the full length of your domestic partnership. (And why you should try to negotiate your divorce outside the court system if this situation describes you.)
  • How to have the full duration of your relationship considered by the court if you had a recognized, state-sanctioned civil union or registered domestic partnership.
  • What happens with your kids in a divorce, and why divorce is an opportunity to ensure parentage is established legally.
  • Paperwork details to watch for if you are getting a divorce and dissolving a domestic partnership.


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Read the Transcript: Special Considerations for Gay & Lesbian Divorces

Welcome to the Hello Divorce Podcast. I’m your host, Erin Levine. I’m super excited to share with you my top insider tips for divorce, including actionable steps in bite-sized pieces to lowering the cost, conflict, and confusion surrounding your divorce so that you can confidently move on to that next awesome chapter. Today’s topic: Special Considerations for Gay and Lesbian Divorces. 

In 2016, the US Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality across the US. While same sex couples can now finally get a license to marry, we spent so much time and energy advocating for gay and lesbian marriage that considerations around divorce took a backseat. If you are divorcing in California, and some other states for that matter, I want you to go through a few considerations that your lawyer or your Google search may not have thought up. In California, we don’t recognize common law marriage. That means that if you and your partner live together in a relationship for 20 years but only recently married, the family law system recognizes your marriage as short term, with different property and support rights and responsibilities afforded to marriages of long duration.

There is an exception if you have a civil union, or a domestic partnership, or the equivalent. But, I’m not talking that domestic partnership that many of us registered for with the city so that we could get something like a family gym membership. I’m talking a state-sanctioned and registered domestic partnership. But what do you do if you find yourself getting divorced after let’s say a 20 year relationship when you’ve only been married for a short time? Well, if you’re the spouse who earned less or accumulated less property –  and I want you to think not just real property but retirement benefits and financial accounts – then you are going to want to try and do what you can to negotiate outside of the legal system. Going to court won’t help your plight. You also want to consider speaking with a lawyer about whether or not you have a property or support legal claim for the period of time in which you were together but not married. But fair warning, in most states it’s rare unless you had a cohabitation agreement or something of the like.

Moving on to kids. Were your children born before you legally married or domestic partnered? You’ve likely taken the steps needed to ensure that your children legally have two parents, but if for whatever reason this has not been accomplished, your divorce is your opportunity to ensure that parentage is established legally. Assume the following: you’re married, then your marriage was deemed unlawful, then you did not remarry once marriage became lawful again. What happens? Well, assuming your marriage was legal at the time and in the place you were married, your same sex marriage should be recognized as lawful back to the date it was solemnized, but you should consider a meeting with your lawyer because as you can see, this stuff can get pretty complicated.

Now, we’ve talked a little bit about the substance of your divorce, but let’s talk procedure. Divorce is paperwork, lots of it. In California, you can use the same forms as hetero couples use, thank goodness. But when you’re choosing a divorce service, lawyer, or mediator to help you navigate your divorce, be sure to choose a company like Hello Divorce or Levine Family Law Group that has LGBT staff and an intense familiarity with the issues that may come up. As an example, if you check the box to dissolve your marriage but you don’t check the box to dissolve your domestic partnership, that could end up costing you down the road. Maybe with a headache, maybe with property, I’m not entirely sure, depending on the facts of your case – but it could become an issue, so you want to do it correct the first time. You want finality. You want to move on. Even if you expect your divorce to be completely amicable, you can’t possibly negotiate your best result if you don’t understand the marital contract that you are dissolving.

Schedule a 15-minute strategy session from the Hello Divorce homepage or a legal coaching session to lean to learn more. Keep listening to this podcast for actionable tips to keep your divorce amicable and affordable, and of course to cover all your legal bases so you are ready for your fresh start.


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