Same-Sex Divorce Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same Sex Marriage & Divorce on Thursday, June 11, 2015.

A year after being denied a divorce in Tampa, a same-sex couple appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal . . . and won. Fort Myers attorney, Luis Insignares, represented the appellant.

Danielle and Krista were legally married in Massachusetts in 2012. They subsequently moved to Florida. Once here, the marriage soured, and Danielle filed a petition for dissolution of marriage a year later.

Krista opposed the divorce, and in trying to stop it, argued that Florida did not recognize same-sex marriages, so the court could not dissolve her marriage.

Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act, supports Kristi’s argument. After trial, the circuit court judge agreed with Kristi, and dismissed the petition for divorce. Danielle appealed that dismissal order.

The Second District Court of Appeals reversed. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, requires Florida to recognize judgments obtained in the courts of other states, unless they violate public policy.

The Second District found that under Florida law, sexual orientation is not a protected class entitled to ‘strict-scrutiny’ analysis. The court applied a ‘rational basis’ analysis. The Court then went on to knock down every ‘legitimate purpose’ argument the State of Florida and Kristi raised.

For instance, the Attorney General claimed that Florida’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages furthered Florida’s history of defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. However, refusing to allow Florida’s courts to dissolve same-sex marriages did not further this stated public policy in any manner.

The Second District panel was also concerned about denying parents access to court to undo a marriage:

The couple’s financial affairs remain intertwined, and their joint assets, if any, are not easily transferred . . . [this] impedes the flow of assets and capital. Particularly significant, the welfare and stability of a child parented by this couple remains in limbo. The fact that a child is involved implicates Florida’s strong public policy to protect children by determining custody matters in accordance with the best interests of the child.

I’ve written about the chaos in same-sex marriage law before. In November, after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans on same-sex marriages, I noted that the other circuit courts had come out the other way.

The 6th Circuit created a circuit split in our country. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling within weeks about whether same-sex couples have a federal constitutional right to wed.

The Second District Court of Appeals opinion is here.