Same-sex marriages can be quite different from heterosexual marriages, including the inherent and unique challenges they face, such as those surrounding stigmas, employment discrimination, unaccepting families of origin, and creating a family for themselves. However, all marriages, no matter the gender or sexuality of those entering them, have some commonalities. One of these commonalities is divorce, and all marriages have the potential to end in one.
The Legal History of Same-Sex Divorces
The federal government didn’t recognize same-sex marriages until 2013. Before this time, based on the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, same-sex couples who were legally married in one state could not legally divorce in another state that didn’t recognize their marriage as valid. As a result, some married same-sex couples faced costly civil lawsuits attempting to resolve the common divorce issues of property rights. Furthermore, some property settlements negotiated outside of court potentially triggered federal gift tax requirements.
Before the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision, couples in same-sex marriages could typically only get divorced in jurisdictions that honored the existence of same-sex marriages. However, in May 2013, when Delaware and Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage, they enacted a law permitting non-resident couples who had legally married there but couldn’t get divorced in the jurisdiction where they were currently residing to obtain a divorce through their family courts. Florida also legalized same-sex couple divorce after a court decision arising from couples who had legally married in other states but weren’t allowed to divorce after moving to that state.
Today, same-sex couples can legally divorce in any state within the U.S., thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015.
Same-Sex Divorce Statistics
Same-sex marriages have been legally recognized in all 50 states since 2015. Between 2015 and 2020, 300,000 same-sex marriages took place. Couples married during that time can now also file for a divorce. But how do same-sex divorce rates compare to those of heterosexual marriages?
Overall, same-sex divorce rates are lower than the divorce rates of heterosexual couples, according to one study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. One potential reason for this lower rate is that same-sex marriage unions are newer. Therefore these couples are inherently less likely to split. However, about two-thirds of same-sex couples who get married are lesbian. Lesbian couples are twice as likely to file for divorce as those in heterosexual marriages.
Other data has proven to be conflicting or inconclusive. For example, a 2011 study using states with available data initially reported that the divorce rates for same-sex couples were slightly lower on average; 1.1 percent of all same-sex couples were divorcing annually, while divorces among different-sex couples were at two percent annually. Although, corrected findings of the same study show a two percent divorce rate for same-sex couples—identical to opposite-sex couples.
A 2019 study with samples from U. S. and Canada determined that the divorce rate of same-sex couples was higher than that of heterosexual couples, especially when it came to couples with children. Same-sex couples in this category had a 43 percent divorce rate over the study period, while heterosexual couples with children only had an eight percent divorce rate.
Divorce in California
California is a no-fault divorce state; this policy applies to both same- and different-sex marriages. A spouse wanting to divorce can file for one by citing one of two possible reasons:
- Their spouse has incurable insanity
- Irreconcilable differences (unsolvable fundamental disagreements)
These two divorce grounds might make it seem easier to dissolve your marriage in California legally. However, the legal process for divorce can extend to much longer than it should due to various factors, including:
- A lengthy document or asset discovery process
- Complications with asset division
- Scheduling conflicts
- Disputes over child custody arrangements
- Spousal support disagreements
- Being uncooperative
- Withholding crucial information from an attorney
Therefore, how long a divorce in California takes depends heavily on how both parties negotiate during the process.
Do You Need Help with a Same-Sex Divorce?
No matter your sexuality or what kind of marriage you are in, you have and deserve legal rights. Sometimes you need someone to partner with you to stand up for these rights. Suppose you are in a same-sex marriage and facing divorce or want to explore your legal options for divorce. In that case, it’s imperative that you have an experienced California divorce attorney who understands your unique position. They can stand up for your rights. Their help can be invaluable in helping you move on with your life. Find an accepting and understanding attorney familiar with California divorce and family laws and how they impact same-sex divorces.