Gay couples were allowed to divorce in New York before they were permitted to marry. Some states continue to ride the fence about same-sex marriage with compromises like civil unions. Several states entirely ban recognition of gay marriage and divorce.

The inconsistency of state and federal laws creates problems and expenses for same-gender couples throughout the country. Applicable laws are so new and vague that many same-sex divorces require lengthy negotiations, adding proportionate legal costs.

Consider the plight of a same-gender couple that marries in New York and moves to a state where gay marriage is neither legal nor acknowledged. The couple might be forced to move and establish residency in another state before divorcing. In some states, an alternative dissolution of marriage is possible through civil court.

Gay couples sometimes complicate matters by saying “I do” in several states, but “marriage tourism” presents its own problems. Multiple marriages can require an equal number of divorces. With the variance in state laws, couples might not be certain how divorced they truly are.

Many gay couples endure legal complications but sometimes costs are prohibitive. Individual couples’ issues affect legal costs, although several attorneys estimate that same-gender divorces cost about twice as much as traditional opposite-gender ones. Custody issues and appeals can be extremely expensive for same-sex spouses due to extended litigation, even in states where gay marriage is legal.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act affects gay divorce settlements in every state. The one-man, one-woman marriage rule makes marital assets like Social Security and retirement plans taxable to gay spouses. Traditional married partners are protected by federal tax exemptions that end up as gift taxes for same-sex spouses.

As complicated as gay marriage laws can be, gay divorce laws may be even more so. New York attorneys with wide-ranging knowledge of family laws help gay spouses create divorce plans that are fair and cost effective.

Source:, “The high cost of same-sex divorce” Nacarla Webb, May. 13, 2013