Same-sex divorce approved by Maryland Court of Appeals

Although allowed in some states, Maryland law currently does not allow same-sex couples to marry. While this is set to change in January 2013, a question that recently went to the Maryland Court of Appeals asked whether lawful same-sex marriages concluded under another state’s law would be recognized in Maryland for the purposes of divorce.

The couple challenging the law was legally married in California in 2008. The couple relocated to Maryland, and ultimately filed for divorce in Prince George County. The judge assigned to the case declined to grant the divorce. After hearing the case, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled by a vote of 7-0 that same-sex couples validly married in other states would have that marriage recognized in Maryland to allow them to take advantage of the state’s divorce laws.

In its opinion, the high court declared that “foreign” marriages should be recognized unless the marriage is “repugnant” to the state’s public policy. The court noted that this rule carries a high bar, and that same-sex marriages valid in other states do not meet the heightened standard.

With the court victory, same-sex couples married lawfully in another state can take advantage of rights granted by divorce under Maryland law. Similar to residents in domestic partnerships, divorcing same-sex couples will likely face challenges when terminating a marriage. These can include questions about child custody and visitation, child support, property division and alimony.

Still, prior to the recent ruling, these couples likely found themselves in limbo when attempting to resolve outstanding issues at the end of a relationship with nowhere to turn. Now, the law is clearer to help couples file for their divorces and move forward with their lives.

Source: Washington Post, “Md. High court permits same-sex divorce from other states, even if Md. doesn’t have gay unions,” May 18, 2012