Unique considerations for divorcing LGBT couples

Securing the right to marry at a federal level was a massive step forward for the rights of LGBT couples. Prior to the landmark Supreme Court case that federally overturned state bans on same-sex marriage, only certain states recognized the unions of LGBT couples, and some of those only allowed for civil unions, not marriage.

Now, LGBT couples can get married in any state and have that marriage recognized in any other state across the country. It truly is a wonderful thing for human rights activists and members of the LGBT community. However, with an increase in marriages, there also comes an increase in divorce eventually.

If you married your partner in Florida, only to later realize that you aren't as happy as you had hoped to be in your marriage, it may be time to consider a divorce. Working with an attorney who is familiar with same-sex divorces can help you properly handle some of the unique concerns people have in a same-sex divorce.

Marriage length affects important court decisions

The longer you have been married, the greater your claim to certain rights, including spousal support and a share of the marital assets. The courts typically do look at marital length when determining the fair and appropriate way in which to handle assets acquired by the couple.

Unfortunately, because of how recently federal law changed regarding LGBT marriage, the legal length of the marriage may not be an accurate portrayal of your relationship. You may have lived together as partners for many years or even decades before the government decided to legally recognized your marriage.

You may be able to use that cohabitation as part of your legal strategy, but doing so can prove difficult without experienced legal representation. Many judges and attorneys only have a little experience working with same-sex couples seeking to end a marriage.

Same-sex couples may have more complicated custody disputes

Custody arrangements for minor children are often the most contentious issue. There can sometimes be an extra layer of difficulty or frustration involved in custody battles between same-sex partners. In some cases, only one spouse has a biological relationship to the child. In others, neither does, but only one has formally adopted the child.

As with any custody proceedings, the focus in a same-sex divorce is on the best interest of the children. If you have a positive and loving parental relationship with the children and your family, the courts may consider that, even if you don't have a biological relationship to the children.

Determining the best options for you and your family during a divorce can be difficult. That's why you should sit down with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to develop a strategy for your upcoming divorce.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

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