Right to Marry Includes Right to Divorce for Same-Sex Couples

Gay divorce has become an issue across the United States
Some people feel the need to celebrate the end of their legal proceedings (image, CC-BY-SA 2.0 user Electron via Wikimedia Commons)

The debate over equal rights for same-sex couples in the United States is ongoing. While the central issue usually focused on is the right to marry, another related issue must also be addressed. As a newsworthy case in Florida demonstrates, just as gay couples are fighting for the right to marry, some are now focusing on the right to divorce.

Challenging Florida Law

In a twist on the typical challenge to Florida’s law banning same-sex marriage, one couple is challenging the law from a different angle. The women appeared before a Circuit Court judge for the purpose of getting an uncontested divorce. The couple had already reach a marital settlement agreement through their respective attorneys.

The Judge heard arguments from each side as to why she should grant the divorce, in light of the fact that the state of Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages. One party’s attorney argued that granting a divorce would not violate the marriage ban, since it would effectively erase the marriage. In the alternative, she argued that if granting the divorce would violate Florida law, it should be granted regardless as refraining from doing so would be unconstitutional. The Judge set a new hearing date to hear further legal arguments from both sides before making a ruling.

Facts of the Case

The couple involved in the case were legally married four years ago in Massachusetts. They moved to Florida in 2011 and have been separated since October of 2013. They each agreed to the terms of the marital settlement agreement in March, which included a provision allowing a lump-sum payment from one of the women to the other, an agreement to avoid direct communication, and a term awarding sole custody of an adopted child to one of the women.

Gay divorce presents unusual legal challenges.
A newly married couple walks in a parade in Iceland, 2006 (image CC-BY-SA 3.0 user Salvor via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the party’s counsel had already submitted an argument to Florida’s Attorney General regarding the case, in anticipation of having to appeal the Circuit Court Judge’s decision to not grant the divorce. This case is likely the first challenge to Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in the context of divorce. As a result, many other couples in similar situations could be looking to the outcome to determine the effect on their own lives. Only one of the women party to the present case was present at the time of the hearing, and she remains hopeful that the Judge’s decision to delay her ruling was a promising sign. It is important to note that earlier this year, a class action suit was filed by six same-sex couples in Florida, in an effort to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Divorce Attorneys

In light of the challenges to existing state laws and the shift in societal attitudes toward these social issues, it is more important than ever to consult with an attorney when addressing family law issues. If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce, contact the experienced lawyers at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. today for a consultation. We have successful experience representing clients in divorce proceedings and related matters. We serve clients in Dade, Broward, and Monroe Counties.