The Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry across the United States. As Justice Anthony Kennedy noted “No longer may this liberty be denied.” Although the vote was narrow—5-4—Kennedy’s opinion was clear and firm. This ruling ended the ban on same-sex marriages in the remaining fourteen states. The state of Colorado had already legalized same-sex marriages in October 2014. As same-sex marriage evolves in the state and across the country, so will Colorado same-sex divorce. Essentially, dissolving a civil union is nearly the same process as the dissolution of a marriage, therefore it is likely that same-sex divorces will not be significantly different either.
SAME-SEX DIVORCE ISSUES
Child custody and visitation, division of assets and the award of spousal support are all issues to be determined under Colorado divorce laws. While most of these issues will remain the same in a same-sex divorce, there may be some areas which will need additional finessing. One of the larger issues prior to the Supreme Court’s decision centered around the IRS, which did not recognize same-sex marriages from the viewpoint of taxes. This should now be a non-issue as same-sex couples are allowed to file joint returns and claim dependency exemptions.
In the realm of custody and parental responsibilities, parents in a same-sex marriage may have adopted children and both parties could be listed as parents. If so, there ought to be little difference in a custody agreement between a husband and wife and a same-sex couple. If only one parent is the biological parent, the non-biological spouse may want to adopt the child or children in order to be afforded all the same rights as the biological parent. If that is the case, then during a divorce, custody arrangements will be made in the same way as for a husband and wife.
Current Colorado law does not specifically provide for a non-parent to pay child support, and a scenario also exists in which another person who is not part of the marriage could have certain obligations under Colorado’s child support statutes. While the law will, hopefully, evolve in light of the Supreme Court Ruling, at present these determinations may be made on a case by case basis. Laws will have to be adapted or enacted in order to cover the changes, however ultimately same-sex couples will have the same legal rights in all issues commonly litigated in a divorce with a man and woman.
HOW SAME-SEX COUPLES WILL BENEFIT FROM THE NEW LAW
In order to benefit under Colorado laws and the new federal laws regarding same-sex marriage, it is important for a same-sex couple to actually apply for a marriage license and get married. There may be questions associated with whether clerks will issue marriage licenses to those with a valid civil union in place, therefore a same-sex couple might need to have a civil union dissolved prior to marrying someone else. This step is not necessary if civil partners are getting married.
COLORADO LAWS REGARDING LENGTH OF MARRIAGE
Under Colorado divorce laws, same-sex couples who are getting divorced may have issues regarding the length of the marriage. Colorado laws which distribute assets based on the laws of equitable distribution, take into consideration the length of the marriage. Same-sex couples may have been partners for a significant length of time prior to being married. It is unclear at this time if the Colorado courts will recognize the time the couple were in a valid civil union. Mediation may be one of the best ways same-sex couples can resolve the issues associated with their divorce, however having an experienced Colorado divorce attorney by your side can definitely make this difficult time much less stressful.
If you and your spouse are considering a divorce in Colorado, it is important to understand the laws that may affect your divorce and your child support. Same-sex couples may face unique obstacles during a divorce and should consult with an experienced Boulder divorce attorney immediately. Contact the Boulder divorce attorneys at Goff & Goff today for a free initial consultation.