In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the U.S. Constitution. Before the Obergefell decision, California was only the second U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage. In addition to having the right to marry in the state, California same-sex couples also had the option of entering into a domestic partnership. Today, the terms domestic partnership and same-sex marriage are still used in California. While both describe a legal relationship, there are some key differences between the two. California domestic partnership and same-sex marriage: Are they the same? Continue reading
Chris and Taylor lived together for ten years before they registered as a domestic partnership in California. Three years later, they married in a formal wedding ceremony surrounded by friends and family in Massachusetts. When their relationship fell apart two years later, they learned that they didn’t know as much about the legal aspects of same-sex marriage as they had thought.
You can be married and registered domestic partners.
Chris and Taylor registered as domestic partners before same-sex marriage became legal. Their status gave them some important benefits and rights.
In 2015, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. States were now required to recognize same-sex marriages validly made in another state. This opened the door for many same-sex couples – including Chris and Taylor – to join the ranks of opposite-sex married couples. Being legally married can be especially helpful because not all states recognize registered domestic partnerships.
Years spent living together before marriage may not count.
In California, marriages over ten years are often given special treatment. For example, awards of spousal support may be more liberal.
In some states, a couple who live together for a certain number of years is considered a married couple. California does not recognize most common-law marriages. If a couple lives together long enough to be considered a common-law couple in another state, California may recognize their time together if the couple divorce in California.
For example, the ten years Chris and Taylor lived together before registering their domestic partnership may be ignored when they divorce. In the eyes of the law, the couple’s marriage only lasted for two years.
This type of situation is incredibly complicated. Discuss your situation with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible.
You may divorce in California if married in California
A couple that legally entered into a same-sex marriage in California can now file for divorce no matter where they live at the time of the divorce. Here’s where Obergefell v. Hodges affects same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce. Since states are now required to recognize lawful same-sex marriages made in another state, they must also allow same-sex partners to divorce.
Same-Sex Marriage Issues Are Complicated
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including same-sex divorces and dissolution of domestic partnerships. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Until June 26, 2015, state laws governing same-sex marriage were as diverse as the states themselves. On one end of the spectrum were states that would recognize a right for same-sex couples to marry; on the other end were states that would neither issue a marriage license nor recognize valid same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states. The ability of states to treat same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples forever changed when the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
The plaintiffs who filed lawsuits in the Obergefell case consisted of 14 same-sex couples and two homosexual men whose life partners had passed away. The plaintiffs were from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Initially, the cases were brought in separate actions in federal trial courts, called the district courts. All of the district courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. However, the cases were consolidated at the next stage of the judicial process, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the judgments, ruling against the rights of same-sex couples.
The two issues in the case related to the ability of the states to (1) refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples; and (2) refuse to recognize as legal same-sex marriages that had been performed in other states.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the state laws that “exclude[d] same-sex couples from civil marriage” were unlawful and that states could not ” refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State.”
This decision will affect many aspects of same-sex marriage nationwide, as marriage is a cornerstone of American society. Indeed, the Court specifically delineated many benefits of marital status, such as the following:
- tax benefits;
- inheritance rights;
- medical decisionmaking rights;
- vital statistics records, such as birth and death certificates;
- survivor rights for the purposes of insurance and workers’ compensation; and
- child custody and support.
California was the second state to recognize same-sex marriage, in 2008. However, it has had a rocky history due the passage of a state constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage. The constitutional amendment was challenged but ultimately invalidated.
The termination of a legal union can be financially and emotionally devastating. In such a circumstance, it is important to work with an experienced, compassionate lawyer who can help you navigate a very difficult time. Judy L. Burger has an extensive, successful background in family law matters in Northern California. Call her today: (415) 293-8314.