Tag: Same Sex Divorce

Florida Same-Sex Marriage Update – We Have a Split!

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same Sex Marriage & Divorce on Friday, November 7, 2014.

The federal 6th Circuit upheld bans on same-sex marriages in four states. Other circuit courts have come out the other way. We now have a circuit split. If petitions for certiorari are filed, we could have a U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer.

I blog about the same-sex marriage controversy a lot. Different states have different laws recognizing same-sex marriages, making the status of same-sex marriages in dispute. This creates interstate chaos. We need the Supreme Court to weigh in.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is important, because it creates a circuit split over the issue. A circuit split makes it much more likely that the Supreme Court will hear the case.

The Sixth Circuit opinion tried to show that laws banning same-sex marriage can meet “rational basis” scrutiny, the lowest level of constitutional review because gays and lesbians are not disenfranchised and are not a politically “powerless” minority.

A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.

May men and women follow their procreative urges wherever they take them? Who is responsible for the children that result?

In accepting these justifications for the four States’ marriage laws, we do not deny the foolish, sometimes offensive, inconsistencies that have haunted marital legislation from time to time.

States will hand some people a marriage license no matter how often they have divorced or remarried, apparently on the theory that practice makes perfect.

The traditional definition of marriage denies gay couples the opportunity to publicly solemnize, to say nothing of subsidize, their relationships under state law.

Do the benefits of standing by the traditional definition of marriage make up for these costs? The question demands an answer – but from elected legislators, not life-tenured judges.

What the opinion lacks in persuasiveness it more than makes up for in creating a circuit split that could prompt a grant of certiorari by the Supreme Court and end the uncertainty of status, and the interstate chaos that the current differences in state laws create.

The opinion in DeBoer v. Snyder can be read here.

Same Sex Marriage Ban Upheld

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same Sex Marriage & Divorce on Wednesday, September 10, 2014.

Favorable decisions in most courts over same sex divorce and marriage laws made you think all courts ruled the same way. A federal court in Louisiana shows that’s not true.

This lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage and its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages permitted in other states and follows other cases I’ve written about.

Jonathan Robicheaux married his same-sex partner in Iowa, but lives in Orleans Parish, Louisiana; he alleged that Louisiana’s defense of marriage amendment to the state constitution violated his federal constitutional rights.

As the New York Times reports, Judge Martin Feldman, of the U.S. District Court for the Easter District of Louisiana in New Orleans wrote the order that the regulation of marriage was left up to the states and the democratic process; that no fundamental right was being violated by the ban; and that Louisiana had a “legitimate interest … whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others … in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents.”

Judge Feldman’s ruling was the first to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriages since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year in the Windsor case.

Gay-marriage supporters had won more than 20 consecutive rulings overturning bans in other states. They said they would take the Louisiana case to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has before it an appeal by the state of Texas of another federal judge’s ruling that struck down that state’s gay marriage ban.

While the Windsor decision found that the federal same-sex marriage ban was discriminatory, it left a tension between the constitutional rights of same-sex couples and the authority of states to regulate marriage.

Same-sex marriage is currently allowed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, as a result of court decisions, legislative action or referendums. In some other states, courts have struck down bans, but those decisions have been stayed pending appeal.

An appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth is assured. The Fifth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Florida used to be in the Fifth Circuit, But, in 1981 Florida was moved into the newly created Eleventh Circuit.

The New York Times article is here.

Transgender Divorce: Married Pregnant Man Can Divorce!

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same sex/GLBTA on Thursday, August 14, 2014.

One thing about matrimonial lawyer work, it never gets boring. A landmark case yesterday is the first to recognize a transgender person’s right to divorce. It also happens to be the first married, pregnant man’s divorce.

I’ve written about Tom’s case before. He was born a woman named Tracy. She was cute too, and participated in beauty pageants and worked as a model. The first of her surgeries were performed in 2002, and later, Tracy became Tom!

After a court hearing in December 2012, the trial judge ruled that Arizona did not have jurisdiction over Tom’s case and that Tom’s marriage was invalid under Arizona law as a “same-sex marriage.”

But a three-judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned that order, and ruled that Tom’s marriage in Hawaii in 2003 is considered valid in Arizona, and concluded it wasn’t a same-sex union.

The Arizona Court of Appeals held:

We find the Family Court has subject matter jurisdiction to proceed with Beatie’s petition for Dissolution of Marriage and, ultimately, to enter a Decree of Dissolution, and therefore reversed the Family Court’s dismissal of Beatie’s Dissolution petition.

The court focused on the fact that Tom complied with Hawaii’s “clear and unambiguous” statute regarding sex change operations, and obtained a valid Hawaii marriage license.

The court specifically stated “there is no apparent basis in law or fact for the proposition that in the event Thomas gave birth after having modified his gender designation, it would have abrogated his “maleness”, as reflected on the amended birth certificate”.

Tom made headlines in 2008 as the World’s First Married Pregnant Man after being legally recognized as a man in 2002. As a married transgender male, he then gave birth to his three children from 2008 to 2010 and now resides in Arizona.

Tom said, “I feel I have finally been recognized in Arizona as not just a man, but a human being.”

You can read more about the world’s first transgender, pregnant male divorce here.

Florida Gay Marriage/Divorce Update

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same sex/GLBTA on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.

A Broward County circuit court judge overturned Florida’s same-sex marriage ban this week, in order to allow a same-sex divorce.

Heather Brassner, who has lived in Florida for years, formed a civil union in Vermont in 2002. They split up, and Brassner lost touch with her partner. She now has a new same-sex partner, and needs to get the civil union dissolved in order to marry. As Channel 10 news reports:

Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen ruled that Florida must recognize Brassner’s Vermont civil union for purposes of dissolving it so that she can marry her girlfriend.

I’ve written about the string of federal decisions which have struck down bans against same-sex marriages, and Judge Cohen’s decision was the third state decision in Florida. The earlier decisions, however, solely ruled on whether a same-sex couple was entitled to marry in Florida.

Judge Cohen was the first to rule that an out-of-state civil union must be recognized by Florida so that the couple can divorce in Florida. The judge stayed his decision “pending the outcome of expected appeals on similar issues recently ruled on by courts in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties”.

In 2008, Florida citizens voted to amend the Florida Constitution to say: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Just like those two prior rulings in Florida, Judge Cohen’s decision doesn’t mean marriage licenses will be issued right away. A stay is in place while the state appeals.

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.

Same Sex Divorce in Florida

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same sex/GLBTA on Monday, August 19, 2013.

Same sex couples can marry, but can they divorce? If so, how? These are interesting questions divorce attorneys are asking.

For Ft. Lauderdale resident Adam Cardinal, this is not an academic question, he’s stuck. He traveled to New Hampshire to get married, where same-sex marriages are legal. About 3 years later, the couple separated.

Gay marriage is legal in New Hampshire, but does not exist in Florida. Florida does not recognize gay marriages which are legal in other states.

He can’t travel back to New Hampshire either. New Hampshire, like Florida, has a residency requirement in the state before being able to file for divorce.

As the New York Times reports, it’s even worse:

Mr. Cardinal cannot remarry – to do so would make him a bigamist in states like Massachusetts or New York that recognize his previous nuptials. And although he and his husband did not combine their assets, the lack of an official document certifying the end of their marriage carries financial risks.

“I didn’t realize this could potentially be an issue, that we couldn’t divorce when we wanted to,” Mr. Cardinal said. “That was really upsetting.”

The DOMA decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, was a victory for gay couples, and may offer hope to people who are caught in legal divorce limbo.

Like newlyweds everywhere, same sex couples give little thought to divorcing.

“You think, ‘This is perfect, this is great, I never have to worry about anything,’ and it’s only in retrospect that you sit back and say, ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’ ” said a woman who lives in Florida but married in Connecticut. She insisted on anonymity because she did not want to jeopardize her chances of eventually obtaining a divorce.

Even if your state recognizes same-sex marriages, divorcing can be more complex than for heterosexual couples. Consider the scenario where a same sex couple has lived together for 20 years, but only got married last month.

Marital Property

In Florida, a marital asset is generally one acquired after marriage. During 20 years of living together and acquiring property, even if Florida recognized same sex divorces, would not likely be marital assets here.

Spousal Support

Suppose a couple held themselves out as married, and would have marriedhad it been legal. Is it fair to limit the length of the marriage for purposes of awarding alimony to a few months because the 20 years illegal marriage can’t be recognized?

Many questions need to be answered, and the law has not caught up to the changes in our society. We have legalized gay marriages, but have not given as much thought to same sex divorce.