Same-sex couples now have the right to get married anywhere in the United States, but that right has not always given them such freedom. This is important when looking at same-sex divorce cases, especially during the asset division process.
As financial experts have pointed out, the issue is that many of these couples who now choose to get divorced may have only been married for a few years, but that does not mean their relationships started at that time. A lot of them engaged in long-term relationships that were the same as marriage in all but name. They had no choice, with official marriage being illegal.
Even so, they remained just as committed and took many of the same steps as married couples. For some, this went on for years or even for decades. Then they got married and, a few years after, decided to get divorced.
For a married couple, items purchased during the divorce are marital assets or joint assets. They both own them. Asset division means splitting up what they bought together. They can go back to the start of the marriage, consider everything purchased jointly since that date, and move forward.
For a same-sex couple, though, they may have spent a decade living together and buying assets together, but the law doesn’t recognize them as a couple at all. They are just two people living in the same home. They know that this depiction does not represent what their relationship looked like, but the court may not.
So, what do they do with those assets? Who owns them? Do they have to split up things that they both thought of as their own for years? Or does the person who specifically paid for the item just get to keep it?
What about income? Do they split up money that they both earned during the marriage, seeing as how they were living together and supporting each other? Or does each person’s income now count as a separate asset, a premarital asset? Do they have no rights, even to major assets like a home or a car?
You can see how confusing this can get. If they had legally had the ability to marry earlier, they would have done so, avoiding these complications. Are they now going to lose out on assets that most married couples would get, all because the right to marry came later for them?
If you find yourself in this position, you may feel like you’re breaking new ground. Make sure you are well aware of the legal rights you have and what you and your spouse can do to seek a proper resolution.