Examining California Divorce Issues for Gays and Lesbians

Several recent articles in the Huffington Post’s new “Divorce” section, along with the ongoing controversy over 2008’s California Proposition 8 and a new law signed this fall by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger all are bringing the legal issues surrounding same-sex California divorce back to the fore.

The 2008 passage by voters of Proposition 8 outlawed same-sex marriage after a brief period when it had been legal here in California. Prop 8 is currently being challenged in court, but regardless of the outcome of those cases the law sets up an intriguing legal situation: if a gay couple married when doing so was legal in California can they still divorce now that the state no longer recognizes such unions? As I noted in a post earlier this year, the interim answer appears to be ‘yes’ though a number of issues (such as the status of same-sex marriages from other states) remain unresolved. Further, as I noted last spring, the state legislature has sought to address the legal differences that existed between dissolution of gay and traditional unions. That process came to fruition in September when the governor signed AB 2700, a measure designed to level the playing field by eliminating the extra complexities faced by same-sex couples seeking to dissolve a marriage or civil union.

The recent Huffington Post articles, however, take still another tack: looking at whether and how gay and lesbian break-ups differ from straight ones. As author Frederick Hertz writes, the fact that gay unions of any sort still exist in only a handful of states more or less ensures that “there’s a strong likelihood that your legal questions will straddle the marital and non-marital dividing line.” This is entirely understandable considering how new the entire concept of same-sex union is, legally speaking. Vermont’s civil unions law, the first in the nation, went into effect only a decade ago. As a result, lawyers, courts and couples are still, in many ways, picking their way through relatively uncharted waters.

It is easy to write, as Hertz does, that “the right to marry conveys a right to divorce,” but making that statement a reality for same-sex couples is proving to be a complex and, at times, confusing process.

More than anything else, this uncertain landscape reinforces the important role that your Los Angeles, San Bernardino or Orange County divorce attorney plays as advisor and advocate at every stage of the California family law process. Choosing the right Orange County divorce lawyer is the crucial first step in a process that should not have to be difficult and adversarial but, unfortunately, often is. A firm that offers combines compassion and personal service with deep experience in every aspect of California family law is your best choice when considering a divorce, be it the dissolution of a same-sex or a traditional marriage.

Huffington Post: Is Gay Divorce any Different Than Straight Divorce?

Huffington Post: The Right to Marry Conveys a Right to Divorce

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma: News Release on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signing of AB2700