With the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, same-sex couples are permitted to marry on the federal level. Same sex marriage had already been approved by the Connecticut Supreme Court years earlier in 2008 in the decision of Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. A decision on the U.S. Supreme Court level, though, helped to eliminate the inconsistencies between different state and federal treatments of same sex divorce. No longer does the law make any distinction between marriages based on the sex of the partners. However, there are special considerations when dissolving a same-sex marriage, so you must be confident in the lawyer you choose to represent you. At Needle|Cuda, you’ll find Connecticut divorce attorneys who earnestly believe in the equal dignity of every person. We treat you with the respect you deserve and work tirelessly to help you achieve your goals in divorce.
Connecticut recognized same-sex civil unions by statute in 2005, becoming the second state after Vermont to do so. However, this created an untenable two-tiered system, which relegated same-sex couples to second-class standing with fewer privileges than married people. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Connecticut corrected this injustice in October 2008 by extending all rights and responsibilities of marriage to couples in civil unions. All existing civil unions were officially recognized as marriages in October 2010.
There is no difference in procedure for same-sex divorce. One spouse initiates the process by serving their spouse with a summons and complaint and then filing that summons and complaint in the family court. The other spouse has the opportunity to file an answer and cross complaint. The complaint can assert no-fault grounds, namely that the relationship is “irretrievably broken down” or cite a traditional ground for divorce.
Couples can work cooperatively to reach a marital settlement or litigate their case in court. Even if a case is litigated, there are still options to work together to make the divorce more amicable in order to save the parties time, expense and stress. Before a court grants a divorce, the couple must settle or litigate key issues such as alimony, child custody, child support and property division. A Westport divorce attorney at our firm can explain every detail of the process as it pertains to your situation.
Connecticut’s equitable distribution law applies in same-sex marriages. Under that system, all property owned by the spouses, whether held jointly or separately, is subject to division upon divorce at the court’s discretion. Even assets obtained prior to marriage may be considered marital, as can a gift or inheritance received by either spouse during the marriage, depending on the unique facts of a case. The same is true of debts.
The division of assets and debts must be fair but need not be equal. The court will consider all relevant factors, including each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, both economic and otherwise. For example, a spouse having raised the couple’s children while forgoing a career will be weighed, as will a spouse having been the sole breadwinner while the other pursued higher education.
Same-sex couples may enter into premarital agreements to control the distribution of assets and debts upon divorce. These agreements will be enforced if validly executed and not unconscionable. A lawyer at our firm can represent you in preparing a premarital agreement or in reviewing an existing one.
Same-sex divorces often have distinct child custody issues. If the couple has adopted children, each party has rights to custody and visitation, subject to agreement or litigation to determine the specific application of those rights. However, it is often that case that one partner has a natural child but the other partner is ineligible to adopt or has not gone through the legal process. Courts cannot award parental rights to a nonbiological parent, absent adoption, but can award visitation if there is a parent-like relationship and lack of ongoing contact would be harmful to the child. Our divorce attorneys are sensitive to the special problems in these situations and work compassionately to preserve parent-child relationships.
Needle|Cuda in Fairfield County protects a client’s rights while dissolving their same-sex marriage. We provide highly responsive service and effective representation focused on positive results. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 203-557-9500 or contact our Westport office online.