Like any other couple, same-sex couples experience rough patches, and can end up in a divorce. Prior to June 26, 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, thus legalizing it in all fifty states (also requiring states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses), issues regarding same-sex “marriages” and relationships were extremely difficult simply because they were not commonly recognized. Many same-sex couples, whether in an out-of-state marriage or even a long-term relationship, faced a maze of difficult issues to contend with. For instance, if you were married in a state that recognized same-sex marriages and then moved (or returned home) to a state that did not, then you faced various and varied long term “life” issues regarding health insurance, property ownership, and inheritance issues. You may have not even been allowed to file for a divorce that new state.

In more recent years, the new standard has at least simplified these issues as far as recognition, however, there still isn’t extensive common legal standards concerning the particularities. Theoretically laws should now be applied more consistently to the dissolution of that same-sex marriage – just like getting a divorce proceeding in an opposite-sex marriage. You must, however, remember that only the state has jurisdiction over divorces, not the federal government. The same issues, everything from the reason or “grounds” for the divorce to child custody/support issues as well alimony, maintenance, spousal support to the distribution of marital property would be judged according to that state’s laws. You must also remember that each state’s laws differ from each other and may vary greatly from state to state. Finally, you must remember that the perception of same-sex marriages (and divorces) – depends on the state, and the particular court, and even the particular judge –and may be dealt with in particular ways. Simply, a same-sex divorce is as complicated as opposite-sex divorce, with just another factor to be considered.

Laws are in any case fluid and always open to interpretation. As well, the laws involving the rights and responsibilities in a same-sex marriage stands as a modern and complicated subset. For example, although not strictly related to matrimonial law, the “hot issue” example of the same-sex couple being refused a wedding cake by a local baker recently stands as a lesson. This simple scenario – a couple wanting to order a cake for their wedding – was litigated all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. Of course, the case has wide-ranging meaning in many areas of law and does not apply directly to divorces or matrimonial law. However, the case does reflect the changing times and how new concepts in law – the allowance of same-sex marriages – may overlap into all areas of law. The exact application of each state’s matrimonial law concerning same-sex couples has made great leaps forward in recent years but is still evolving (and will never be concretely established, especially as each state has different and differing laws). Interesting developments are surely right around the corner.

If you are interested in finding out more about same-sex divorce and any matrimonial issues in New York, contact our office at 718-539-1100 or email us at