A same-sex divorce attorney understands that marriage equality sometimes has unfortunate consequences. We’re proud that our LGBT friends, family, and neighbors now have the right to marry, but some same-sex divorces are inevitable. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we’ve handled countless divorces in Baltimore, addressing a myriad of diverse issues. We will use this experience to protect your rights during a same-sex divorce.
Maryland’s Same-Sex Divorce Laws
Same-sex marriage is a relatively new concept in the United States. Thankfully, Maryland has come a long way since 1973, when it became the first state to specifically ban same-sex marriage. Our state’s timeline towards same-sex marriage includes:
- 2007: The Court of Appeals (Maryland’s highest court) issues a 4-3 decision in Conaway v. Deane & Polyak, upholding the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
- 2008: Domestic partnerships become legal, giving same-sex couples the right to make medical decisions for their partner, visit hospitals and nursing facilities, and jointly own property.
- May 2012: In Port v. Cowan, the Court of Appeals recognizes the validity of an out-of-state same-sex marriage and permits same-sex divorce in Maryland.
- November 2012: In a referendum, Maryland voters approve a law allowing civil same-sex marriage.
- January 2013: Maryland begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
- 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing same-sex couples’ right to marry.
Before Obergefell, same-sex divorces could be incredibly complicated. Some states refused to honor same-sex divorce decrees, making child custody, property division, and support payment enforcement difficult. Many of these difficulties surrounding same-sex divorce have now disappeared.
In many ways, same-sex divorce is no different than other divorces. For example:
Child support awards are typically based on Maryland’s child support guidelines. These guidelines consider your actual monthly income, child care costs, health insurance expenses, and other issues.
Grounds for Divorce
All couples must show they have legally-recognized grounds for a divorce, such as:
- Certain criminal convictions,
- Insanity, or
- Separation for at least 12 months.
Residency Requirements for Divorce
To divorce in Maryland, either you or your spouse must reside within the state. If the grounds for divorce happened outside of Maryland, you or your spouse must live in Maryland for at least six months before divorcing.
Because same-sex marriage and divorce laws are still developing in Maryland. For this reason, it’s important to hire a knowledgeable same-sex divorce attorney. A lawyer will ensure that you are up-to-date on recent legal developments and educate you about how they impact your divorce.
Issues That Complicate Same-Sex Divorces
However, there are still challenges that are unique to same-sex marriages. Some of these issues involve:
- Alimony: When awarding alimony or spousal support, the court considers a series of factors. One of these factors is the length of your marriage. Since same-sex marriage only recently became legal, alimony calculations require a deft hand and deeper legal analysis than most opposite-sex marriages.
- Child Custody: If your children were born post-marriage, child custody issues are no different than those involving opposite-sex couples. However, if your child was born before your marriage and you did not formalize a second-parent adoption, the courts must apply a four-part test to determine whether you are a de facto parent.
- Property division: You must divide your marital property equitably (or fairly). If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court will divide your property for you. Disputes can arise when your relationship significantly predates the legalization of same-sex marriage.
For these reasons, you should always consult with a same-sex divorce attorney before filing for divorce. Without legal representation, you might experience significant delays, difficulties, and unnecessary expenses. Contact a same-sex divorce attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates to learn how we can help.
Same-Sex Divorce Settlement Agreements
Because many committed LGBT relationships significantly predate a marriage, it is often in a same-sex couple’s best interests to enter a divorce settlement agreement. In a divorce settlement agreement, you and your spouse detail exactly how you will address:
- Alimony and spousal support,
- Child custody and child support,
- Property division, and
- Debt division.
Your same-sex divorce attorney can help you negotiate the terms of your settlement agreement.
Sometimes, mediation and alternative dispute resolution can also help you arrive at reasonable divorce settlement terms. In a mediation, a neutral, trained specialist will help you and your spouse identify areas of agreement or possible compromise. Once you agree to the terms of a divorce settlement agreement, you and your spouse will present it to a judge. Your agreement typically will then be incorporated into your divorce decree, making it a legally binding agreement.
At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we have extensive experience negotiating and drafting divorce settlement agreements. If you are interested in this efficient and civil approach to divorce, contact us for more information.
Discuss Your Case With a Baltimore Same-Sex Divorce Attorney
A same-sex divorce attorney can help you end your marriage quickly and fairly. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we provide thoughtful advice and tenacious representation, as well as emotional support during a difficult process. We offer confidential evaluations and look forward to speaking with you.