California’s Same-Sex Divorce Trap

Same-sex couples married in California, but now residing in states that don’t recognize their marriage, are finding it inconvenient to go through gay divorce in California.

As reluctant as most states have been to recognize same-sex marriage, you would think they would make ending one relatively simple. But that is not the case for many same-sex couples holding California marriage licenses.

When same-sex marriage became legal in California on June 16, 2008, there was a huge influx of couples from all over the United States ready to tie the knot. But like many heterosexual marriages, not all same-sex marriages are meant to last. Couples who left California after marrying to live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage are finding themselves trapped in a relationship due to the difficulty of divorce.

Couple Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon traveled to California in 2008 to get married before returning to their home in Mississippi. They decided to separate after more than a year of marriage, but were denied a divorce by trial courts because, under Mississippi law, no marriage existed, according to an NPR story.

Mississippi bans same-sex marriages by statute and state constitution.

At the time, California required couples to become California residents for six months to enter a dissolution of marriage. If traveling to another state to divorce wasn’t inconvenient enough, consider the pressure a couple on the rocks would face by having to move to another state for six months. Thankfully, the legislation subdivision below makes gay divorce in California a less daunting task:

(b) (1) A judgment for dissolution, nullity, or legal separation of a marriage between persons of the same sex may be entered, even if neither spouse is a resident of, or maintains a domicile in, this state at the time the proceedings are filed if the following apply:

(A) The marriage was entered in California.

(B) Neither party to the marriage resides in a jurisdiction that will dissolve the marriage. If the jurisdiction does not recognize the marriage, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the jurisdiction will not dissolve the marriage.

Although this subdivision makes divorce more convenient, it does not change the fact that Mississippi – and other states – don’t recognize same-sex marriage and divorce. But it could be worse.

Wisconsin and Delaware consider it a crime for a same-sex couple to marry in another state to evade their marriage laws. Couples in violation of Wisconsin’s marriage evasion laws could be fined as much as $10,000, imprisoned up to nine months, or both.

Will other states recognize same-sex marriages for the sake of divorce? Maybe, if enough people fight for it like Chatham and Melancon. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, our team is here to help the process of gay divorce in California play out as smoothly as possible by negotiating the following important topics with your spouse and judge:

  • Custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal or partner support
  • Property division
  • Debt responsibility

Call today for a free initial consultation.