News and Resources

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 mean time, 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.



Meet Your Dedicated San Diego Family Attorneys
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS

Family Attorney, John N. Griffith, CFLS

John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.


Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.
Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

San Diego family lawyer Catie Young has a wide range of litigation experience. She has worked in civil litigation. She has successfully represented clients in many areas of family law including child support, child custody, divorce and domestic violence. She has a unique approach to each child custody case, so clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases.


Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.
Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Family Attorney, Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Amy Lass was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting and went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006. Amy takes a practical and cost considerate approach to the process while striving to balance the emotional needs and objectives of her clients.


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The Typical Divorce Process in California
Discovery of Assets & Obligations (1-3 months)
1 Complaint for Divorce Filed Start of litigation
2 Complaint is Served Varies, but usually shortly after the complaint is filed
3 Answer to Complaint Due 30 days from the date of service
4 Mediation Anytime, but usually after initial discovery
5 Temporary Hearing Usually early in the process
6 Late Case Evaluation / Judicial Hosted Settlement Conference Usually near the end of the case
7 Trial (If Needed) The goal is to settle, but if your case goes to trial, it could take months after the start of litigation.
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