California has had a long and at times confusing history with regard to same-sex marriage. Many within the LGBT community have been married in the periods of time when same-sex marriage was legal. In the past, some of those couples may have faced issues when seeking a divorce, since the state, in addition to other states, ceased to recognize these unions. California has since granted divorces to same-sex couples, despite their residency at the time they sought the divorce.
Obviously the landscape has changed quite a bit with the recent United States Supreme Court decision handed down on June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges. This decision validates all marriages, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender, ruling that all states must now recognize same-sex marriages. With this ruling comes several implications including the right to certain tax benefits, health benefits, etc. that were previously only available to heterosexual, married couples.
A reality of marriage is divorce. While California already has procedures in place to end domestic partnerships and civil unions, we could now see more same-sex couples seeking divorces, since same-sex marriages are now recognized. It will be interesting to see how existing civil unions and/or domestic partnerships are handled in CA, whether the state will begin to automatically change these unions to a marriage or whether steps must be taken by the couple to have their union recognized as an official marriage. Some states already automatically convert these unions to marriages but it is important to understand what your state will do should you seek to end the union, as there are different procedures that apply to each.
Now that these couples and their marriages are equal in the eyes of the law, there is an increased need for same-sex couples to seek legal advice if there are any concerns heading into the marriage (pre-nuptial agreements, etc.) as well as when it looks as though the marriage is ending. No matter the reasons for a divorce, it can be a stressful and emotional experience. It is always in a person’s best interest to seek legal advice in these circumstances and now it is even more relevant for those entering into or ending a same-sex marriage.