As same-sex marriage rates rise, some lesbian and gay couples are finding themselves denied a same-sex divorce in their home states
Divorce is excruciating. But imagine the additional burden of being told, as you start down the path of dissolving the most important partnership in your life, that the state you live in will not grant you a divorce. And that you therefore will not have access to the process or protection that divorce laws are meant to provide.
That’s what some same-sex couples are now experiencing in more conservative states like Mississippi, Texas, and Kentucky.
When a lesbian or gay couple marries in one state, sets up house in another, and then chooses to divorce, they may find themselves unable to obtain a divorce locally. If they’ve made their marital home in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, getting a divorce may be near impossible because the state may claim that it cannot dissolve a marriage that it never believes existed in the first place. And this can present some challenges.
In most cases, same-sex couples living in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions have the option of going back to the state where they married to file for divorce. However, that option is problematic for several reasons, including the expense and time required. Additionally, couples will not be guaranteed that their home state will recognize the out-of-state divorce and therefore respect decisions that are made where marital property, spousal support, child support and custody arrangements are concerned.
And then there’s the sting of being told — as you seek to separate two wholly intertwined lives — that you were never really married at all.
In a recent Associated Press article, journalist David Crary quotes Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, a Mississippi resident who married in California and is now being denied a divorce. “It’s humiliating to know that you spend that money, that time to be in a committed relationship and for it to end. I mean, that hurts. But then to be in a state that doesn’t recognize you as a human being, or recognize you for who you are, for who you love, it’s hard,” Czekala-Chatham said.