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Costs still high for gay couples seeking New York divorces

More same-sex couples are set to marry now that the federal government has caught up with New York State on the subject of equality for gay couples. The end of the Defense of Marriage Act was a step toward making same-gender marriages and divorces easier.

The decision to take down the barrier that prevented national recognition of gay marriages did not change the way lawmakers in individual states feel about the issue. Many states permit civil unions but not gay marriage. Other states forbid same-sex marriages and many fail to recognize the relationships of gay residents who were rightfully married elsewhere.

Gay marriage and divorce are unrecognized in 37 states.

The laws addressing gay relationships are new at a federal level and untested even in states where gay marriage is permitted. The inconsistency in laws and lack of legal precedence adds time and expense for gay couples who choose to divorce.

Divorce is traditionally processed through the state where a couple resides. That condition presents problems for gay married partners who live in places where divorce is impossible because the state will not admit a marriage exists.

The only way a divorce may occur is when one or both gay married partners relocates, an extraordinary expense that divides spouses from children, established employment and assets. Legal experts say gay divorce can cost as much as three times that of a heterosexual divorce, depending on the length and depth of the relationship.

Family courts are still trying to define boundaries that pertain to gay marriages. Some lawyers have convinced judges in gay marriageless states to allow same-sex divorces. The identical case before a different judge could yield entirely different results. Until legal patterns are established, the cost of gay divorce may remain high.

Fortunately, since the state legalized gay marriage, New York lawyers and courts have gained experience with gay couples' marital issues.

Source: reuters.com, "For gay couples, divorce equality is also a trial" Geoff Williams, Jul. 08, 2013

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