Same-Sex Marriage and the Right to Divorce

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When the US Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, a national bureaucratic nightmare ended. By requiring states to recognize same-sex marriage everywhere, gay couples were also granted the right to divorce everywhere. Before the high court decision, only 13 states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex marriage, while a few others allowed civil unions or domestic partnerships. The rest had no laws on the books providing for anything resembling the marital rights heterosexual couples enjoyed. When gay couples tied the knot in a state that allowed same-sex marriage and then moved to a state that did not, they were unable to divorce if they chose to. They could go back to the state in which they married, but states often had residency provisions requiring waiting periods; ending the marriage had logistical problems. Thankfully, these concerns are no longer an issue.

The Gay Divorce Rate Is Less Than That of Straight Divorce

Now a marriage is a marriage whether the couple is gay or straight. The same is true with divorce. The William Institute claims that 2% of straight marriages end per year, while the gay community is only experiencing a 1% dissolution rate. However, academics make note of the backlog of gay couples who waited years to get married and did so. These were couples with established relationships, so it is logical that the success rate would be better. However, it is predicted that the rate of gay divorce will rise once younger, more impulsive couples find their way into the statistical mix.

Same-sex Marriage in New Jersey

Attitudes in New Jersey toward same-sex marriage have pretty much mirrored those of the nation as a whole. From 2003 to 2017, most poll results showed that New Jersey residents overwhelmingly supported the legalization of same- sex marriage. Some of the support may have come from those realizing the favorable economic impact same-sex marriage could and does have on the state. A 2006 UCLA study estimated $102.5 million in new business would come into New Jersey in each of the first three years after same-sex marriage was legalized. This would result to $7.2 million in additional tax revenues for those years. It was calculated that 1400 new jobs would be needed to support the new economic activity. Those conducting the study expected much of the revenues to be generated from the wedding industry and tourism.

Gay Divorce Issues Resemble Straight Divorce Issues

The divorce issues are the same for gay couples as they are for their heterosexual counterparts: child custody, alimony, finances, division of property, etc. What gay couples can learn from straight couples is that protracted divorces are emotionally damaging and financially draining. If a same-sex couple decides to divorce, they should consider mediation or collaborative law where a spirit of working together to end the marriage is used instead of the adversarial litigation model where the object is to fight it out. Gay couples can even seek out mediators and collaborative lawyers who specialize in serving the LGBT community. A couple that actively works with experienced professionals to dissolve a marriage can expect to end the marital union in a way that is more amicable — and less costly — than if they had headed to court.

Read The Courtless Divorce book for information on the alternatives to divorce litigation.


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