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Georgia Same-Sex Divorce Issues

With the recent decision by the Supreme Court legalizing marriage between same-sex couples in Georgia and throughout the county, there will most likely same-sex divorces in Georgia the near future.  Divorces between same sex couples were not highly common.  One of the reasons being because not many state recognized their marriage in the first place, meaning that unless they were in the state they were married in and even then that state might have residency requirements and other requirements.  So unless the couple was willing to meet all the requirements, divorce was almost impossible.  Before the Supreme Court’s recent decision legalizing marriage, some same-sex married couples were even having to petition the court for annulments rather than divorces in states that did not recognize the marriage (such as Georgia).

For gay couples in a committed relationship who now have the chance to take their union to the next step, there are some important legal issues to consider.  If one spouse dies, issues involving inheritance, taxes, property and parental rights are generally less complicated than for an unmarried couple.  The federal (and state government to a lesser degree) provides a number of benefits to married couples, including health care, Social Security, nursing home care and family leave.  The 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, federal benefits apply in most cases to all legally-married couples, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.

If you have a same-sex partner and plan to have or adopt children, being married can be a significant advantage in giving both people equal rights to the children.  If the relationship ends, having been legally married can be a financial advantage.  It is also anticipated that the “best interest of the child standard” will pay an even larger part in custody and visitation decisions with children of same-sex couples seeking divorce.  As a married couple, purchases you make together are considered joint property.  Spouses are also entitled to seek alimony in the event of a divorce.  However, you may also be responsible for your spouse’s debts. For same-sex couples where one partner is not a U.S. resident, marriage can also be an advantage.   These are all issues that opposite-sex couples traditionally face – and it is not anticipated that this will change much in same-sex divorces.

When filing for divorce, at this point same-sex marriage and divorce is a fairly new area and it is still being defined, it can only be assumed that for now it will follow the same lines of a common divorce with some differences, especially in the alimony, asset division, and child custody.  In the case of alimony, it may be calculated differently that other marriages, the reason being that length of the marriage is usually a factor in awarding alimony.  However, since same-sex marriage is fairly a new right, along with this is the tax benefit that will be available since alimony is taxable income to the receiver and tax deductible to the payer.  It is important the length of the marriage be clearly defined.