Same Sex Divorce: The Future is Nearer

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same sex/GLBTA on Wednesday, October 9, 2013.

Florida prohibits same sex marriages and same sex divorce – even if the marriage was entered in a state in which such marriages are legal. What happens if you are a Floridian who married in a state where same sex marriages are legal, but now want to divorce?

As the New York Times reports, a taste of what a Florida same sex divorce will look like may be found in Mississippi of all places. A woman is asking a Mississippi court to dismiss a divorce petition filed by the wife she married in California. Her argument:

Mississippi can’t grant the divorce because it doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.

The couple, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon, went to California to marry in 2008 while living together in Mississippi. Czekala-Chatham still lives in Mississippi, but Melancon moved to Arkansas.

Czekala-Chatham filed for divorce in north Mississippi’s DeSoto County Chancery Court on September 11, 2013, and wants Mississippi to recognize her marriage so she can get a divorce there.

Melancon filed a motion to dismiss her divorce petition based on Mississippi law, which like Florida, prohibits same sex marriages:

Any marriage between persons of the same gender is prohibited and null and void from the beginning. Any marriage between persons of the same gender that is valid in another jurisdiction does not constitute a legal or valid marriage in Mississippi.

Even though the parties were legally married in California, the State of Mississippi lacks any legal basis to grant the Plaintiff a divorce because there is no marriage to dissolve under the laws of this state.

What can Czekala-Chatham do if she wants a divorce? One thing is she can file for divorce in California:

Same-sex married couples who got married in California but do not live in California and live in a state (or states) that will not dissolve a same-sex marriage, can file to end their same-sex marriage in California, regardless of these residency requirements.

However, the lack of residency may stop a California court from deciding property ownership, alimony and children’s issues.

The Texas Supreme Court recently said it will consider whether it has jurisdiction over same-sex divorce cases and scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 5. At least two same-sex couples have filed for divorce in the state, which does not permit gay marriage.

Floridians in same sex marriages, who have wondered what their options are in the event of divorce, should keep an eye out on what is happening right now in Mississippi and Texas. That could be our future.