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USA, Florida: Broward County Judge Grants First Same Sex Divorce

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

FloridaIt’s official – a lesbian couple is now divorced in the state of Florida.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Circuit Judge Dale Cohen on Wednesday dissolved the marriage of Heather Brassner and Megan Lade in a brief hearing. They were united in a 2002 civil union in Vermont but Brassner was unable to obtain a divorce in Florida for five years since their relationship ended. “It’s like an emotional weight being lifted off,” said Brassner, who is from Lake Worth. “I just feel free and I couldn’t have gotten a better holiday gift.”

Cohen ruled in August that Florida’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Because the ruling came in a divorce case, it has the effect of also declaring that out-of-state gay marriages should be recognized in Florida. It does not mean same-sex marriage licenses can be issued in Broward County.

Judge Cohen’s action comes as a stay in another case is about to expire on 1/5, unless Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas grants an extension.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Florida.

As Marriage Equality Expands, the Gay Divorce Rate Is Increasing – And Happily Married Gay Couples Don’t Like It

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

When gay marriage was only legal in a very few places, gay divorce rates were very, very low. It made for lots of great news stories about how marriage equality would ultimately create more solid marriages nationwide, which have in recent history waivered at nearly 50 percent. Now that marriage equality has been enacted in so many different states, the statistics have started shifting. And happily-married gay couples are not at all pleased about it.

Frequently, former clients bring issues like this to my attention because they want to see the topic written about and the discussions that follow. In this particular case, a former client brought up the subject of the increase in gay divorces because it’s seriously bothering him.

While he and his husband have been happily married for several years, he has four sets of friends who haven’t been married very long and are currently in serious relationship trouble. Even in today’s society where marriage isn’t forever for so many people, it bothered him that he was close to four relatively-newly-married gay couples who are already getting divorced. That’s a lot of divorce in one social circle at one time.

“I think a lot are marrying for the vanity and to be the center of attention or for the party. Couples that only know each other a few months. You know the gays love a party,” he says. But he’s not joking despite his tone. He points out that gay icons Liz Taylor, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli had 16 weddings between the three of them. Not the best examples to follow.

“They started to see other gay weddings and they looked like such fun, they wanted their own,” he opines. Next thing you know, couples who have only been together for a short period of time are getting legally married just because they can without giving enough consideration to what the word “marriage” means long term.

“I also don’t think the gays are co-mingling finances the way straights do, so divorce is easier on the financial front and the lack of children helps speed things along.” Basically, he says gay couples have fewer factors to consider when debating fixing or ending a relationship. It’s easier to get out of a gay marriage in most cases. That’s assuming they both still live in a state that acknowledges the legality of their marriage in the first place. When the state doesn’t recognize the union, there’s a whole new list of problems to encounter when splitting the blanket. But that’s a different blog.

He’s also concerned that gay men aren’t taking the vows of marriage as seriously as they should be. And he thinks it’s embarrassing to the marriage equality movement.

“One guy was telling me he was thinking of getting divorced while sitting on another guy’s lap,” was one example he cited. Notoriously “social,” some gay men have continued prior behaviors and not remained monogamous post-wedding ceremony. What was acceptable in the relationship before the wedding may no longer be okay with both partners once they’re wearing rings. This is a discussion to have before you say “I do.” While plenty of married couples (gay and straight) have “understandings” or “open marriages,” that’s something that has to be agreed upon by both partners before either one of them steps out on the other. Otherwise, it’s justified grounds for divorce.

Even more irritating to some is the fact that many single gay men appear not to understand that married gay men are off limits once they’ve gotten married. This problem with promoting infidelity is not new, according to my gay friends. In fact, more than one of them tell stories about gay friends who ask about their straight friends, only to be told “he’s married with three kids.” More often than not, my friends say the response is “So what?”

My lesbian friends and clients say infidelity isn’t their main problem but rather, finding a balance in a marriage and household is a constant stereotype struggle with both women wanting to be in charge. But we’ll come back to that.

When I first started planning and executing gay weddings years ago, the subject of divorce wasn’t even up for discussion. There were no statistics because it hadn’t been legal in enough places long enough to be analyzed. Even with the uptick in gay divorces, they’re still registering about half as many as straight divorces most places. But then again, most of the statistics reflect information about unions that have been legal for five years or less. While the success rate should be celebrated cautiously, it’s going to take another five years to learn whether there is truly a difference in marital longevity based on sexual preference.

The vast majority of my clients are committing themselves to each other here in the Caribbean, in full blown weddings or well-planned elopements, to signify that they are very serious about being married. Some of them went home and took legal steps to merge their lives in the same way a married couple would, just without the marriage license to go with it. Some got married legally if they could. Others were waiting for their home states to pass marriage equality.

Dwayne Byrum and Rodney Stroth became Mr. and Mr. on the beach in Vieques during the filming of TLC's "Wedding Island."

Dwayne Byrum and Rodney Stroth became Mr. and Mr. on the beach in Vieques during the filming of TLC’s “Wedding Island.”

Dwayne and Rodney Byrum were married on Vieques, Puerto Rico, on 12-12-12, the “last luckiest day of the century.” Afterward, they went home to Virginia and built their lives together. They waited patiently for their own state to legalize their union because, even though they could go across the bridge into Washington, DC, and get married, that legal union wouldn’t have been acknowledged just a few miles away at home.

Last summer, Virginia passed marriage equality and Dwayne and Rodney literally ran to the courthouse to get their marriage license. Just as quickly, the courts shut it down, and it wasn’t until months later when the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality in Virginia and a number of other states that they could actually get legally married. And they did. As quickly as they could before some little glitch made it impossible for them to get married, again. But the decision to get married wasn’t made in haste – it was something they’d been waiting almost two years to do. They didn’t need a big party to make it real – they’d already eloped in the Caribbean, on television.

After almost two years of patiently waiting, Dwayne and Rodney were married in Virginia as soon as they could.

After almost two years of patiently waiting, Dwayne and Rodney were married in Virginia as soon as they could.

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” Dwayne explains. “The LGBT community has fought for marriage equality rights for decades, now that we have it in the majority of the United States, as a community, we need to take these new rights seriously.”

“Marriage, as a whole, is a serious endeavor which not only opens equal rights and opportunities for LGBT’s, it also opens us up to the same legal responsibilities and ramifications as everyone else who enters into a marriage. Not enough thought is being put into that,” he says.

It makes me wonder if the whole process of planning a serious marriage ceremony rather than jumping on the marriage bandwagon just because it’s suddenly been legalized makes a big difference in the survival rate of the relationship. To the best of my knowledge, all of my gay and lesbian clients who have gotten married in Vieques are still together. I know for a fact that some are planning to have (or adopt) several children, making the same kind of long-term life plans as all of my clients who aren’t gay.

Perhaps the planning time for their destination weddings (and not every wedding is big – but it is thought out and coordinated) gives LGBT couples more time to consider the implications of the big move they’re going to make. And as all brides and grooms know, actually planning a wedding is stressful and how you handle those obstacles as a couple can be a real learning experience. If you can’t agree on who to invite, what to serve, the budget, or your vows, that’s a sign that you’re not necessarily ready to get married. Once you’re married, life’s problems are usually significantly more real and challenging. If you can’t plan a wedding together, odds are that you’re not going to survive married to each other for very long.

Yes, it’s depressing to think of it that way for me as a wedding planner, but that opinion isn’t restricted to gay and lesbian marriages. It’s just as true for straight couples getting ready to take the plunge. If you cannot agree on how to handle your families, where you’re going to be in five years, or your long-term goals in general, you’re not ready to get married regardless of your sexual preference.

“You need to be sure of your decision and reasons for getting married, and also look at all the implications of doing so,” Dwayne continues, and adds this list of important issues couples should consider before taking the formal step of saying “I do.” He also points out that not everything about getting married is glitter and rainbows.

1) How long has the couple considering marriage been together? Is the person you’re about to marry really and truly the person you want to grow old with? How well do you truly know your partner? 

2) Getting married (LGBT or straight) without having dependents or owning property together will cost you a fortune in taxes versus remaining single and staying a couple. It may be better to have legal documents drawn up to protect your rights instead of actually getting married. 

3) Most people enter a marriage with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, you do have to think about, “what if it doesn’t work out. What are the implications of getting a divorce?”

While digging on the Internet to learn more about the subject of gay divorce rates, I learned that, interestingly, the rate of lesbian divorce is consistently twice that of gay men in the vast majorities of countries that have legalized gay marriage, including the United States. It’s an interesting statistic to keep in mind. And probably whole other blog to write eventually.

Gay men told me that lesbian marriages deal with fewer infidelity challenges – they feel the culture of lesbian relationships, even in the dating realm, is more monogamous, and frankly, a little less slutty. However, the lesbians I talked to thought there were bigger issues at stake (although they didn’t disagree with the less infidelity assessment). Women face challenges just by being women, and some of those carry over into a marriage or civil union and result in a split.

“My personal take is that for some reason, one or both women feel the need to be extra ‘masculine’ whereas gay men, I feel, tend to be sooooo soft intellectually and romantically inclined and apologetic and sensitive,” explains Janelle Fitzgerald, a lesbian who is currently separated from her wife. She says a lot of her gay and lesbian friends agree with her assessment.

“My men-friend couples have longggg lasting relations and babies and families while we lesbians try our damnedest, but I swear we walk in with the chips stacked against us,” Janelle explains. It sounds like there’s a greater struggle for who takes the leadership role in lesbian marriages. Many women spend all day trying to bust through the glass ceiling and don’t seem to let go of that at home with their spouses. It’s not an uncommon problem in straight relationships either, but when both partners are fighting against the same demons, the challenge is double.

Although Janelle is still in a civil union with her wife, they’ve been separated for almost two years.

“I swear if that stubborn straight-man gene and the immaturity straight men seem to possess in spades were non-existent, or at least balanced, we’d have a fighting shot,” she says. And she jokes that unfortunately, “we can’t all marry gay men if we are lesbians can we…?”

There are lots of other statistical reasons that lesbian marriages would struggle more than gay ones – disparity of income being the biggest and most damning. I see it in my wedding planning business where very few lesbian couples spend even half as much money as gay men do on their wedding plans. It’s not because they’re cheap (in most cases), it’s because they face greater daily life financial challenges. DINK (double-income-no-kids) boosts the household of two men far higher than it does for two women. And more of the women getting married already have children. With money problems being the biggest cause of divorce across the board for all marriages, it makes perfect sense that this could be detrimental for two women trying to make a life together.

Whatever the cause of the increasing gay divorce rate, marriage equality advocates would like to see it stop. After spending years fighting for the right to get married, they don’t want hear that it’s not working. Of course, not every marriage lasts and not every couple is mean to be together “til death do us part” regardless of vows. But gay and lesbian couples rushing out to get married legally just because they can isn’t a good reason for so many marriages to fall apart.

When a couple decides to get engaged and then married, they need to take some time to consider all factors and make sure they’re ready for the next step. Gay or straight, marriage isn’t easy. Getting married might be easier for straight couples, but staying married is equally hard for everyone who has exchanged rings. Doing it for the wrong reasons – like because you’ve always been dying to plan your wedding and you never thought you would be able to – will only result in catastrophe long term. Every couple getting married is entitled to celebrate and have the party, but you don’t have to run down the aisle to have that. A slow walk will get you to the same destination, and you won’t feel confused and out of breath.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events. She married Dwayne and Rodney Byrum in a commitment ceremony on Vieques Island on her TLC reality show "Wedding Island" on 12-12-12

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events. She married Dwayne and Rodney Byrum in a commitment ceremony on Vieques Island on her TLC reality show “Wedding Island” on 12-12-12

Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She is also the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a company that provides traditional planning services but also provides consulting services to DIY brides and groom all over the world.She is also the star of TLC’s reality wedding show “Wedding Island.” Sandy and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 500 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm). Sandy has a regular columns on the Huffington Post and in BRIDES and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!

Tennessee Marriage Equality Setback: Judge Upholds Ban in Divorce Case

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Tennessee mapA judge in the case of two men seeking a divorce has upheld the Tennessee marriage equality ban.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

A Tennessee judge has ruled that two men who married in Iowa and later moved to Tennessee cannot be granted a divorce because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. In his ruling, Roane County, Tenn., Circuit Court Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr., upheld Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage and said state laws now in effect don’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process rights, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. “The battle is not between whether or not marriage is a fundamental right but what unions are included in the definition of marriage,” according to Simmons’ ruling.

The judge basically hid behind a state’s rights defense. It’s sad that a couple can be denied a divorce because that would offend someone’s sensibilities about marriage equality.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Tennessee.

Nebraska Lesbian Divorce Blocked By State Supreme Court

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

NebraskaImagine if you no longer loved your husband or wife, and your state’s Supreme Court stepped in to tell you that you had to remain married to them.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Nebraska’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal Friday by woman legally wed to another woman in Iowa who is now seeking a divorce in the state where they live, saying it didn’t have jurisdiction and therefore could not address the constitutional arguments raised about same-sex marriage and divorce in Nebraska… The state attorney general’s office, in a friend of the court brief, argued that allowing the divorce would run afoul of the state’s constitutional amendment and that granting the divorce “would in effect disenfranchise 70 percent of Nebraska’s voters (who voted for the amendment).” Nichols’ attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, had argued that the U.S. Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause requires Nebraska to recognize the marriage. But Nebraska’s Supreme Court dismissed the case without addressing constitutional issues, saying that because Nichols had appealed from a conditional order and not a final judgment, it lacks jurisdiction over the appeal.

Some day, and maybe some day soon, we’ll be past this messy patchwork of state by state laws that dictate when we can marry, and when we can get divorced.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Nebraska.

Texas Marriage Equality Cases Stalled?

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Texas mapThree federal cases are moving slowly through the system. The first is awaiting a Fifth Circuit hearing.

The Dallas Voice reports:

In February, a federal San Antonio judge ruled the state’s amendment unconstitutional but stayed his decision after a hearing for a temporary injunction to allow one of the couples in the case to marry. The state appealed the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court declined a petition to expedite the hearing last week, meaning it could take months before the case moves forward.

The other two federal cases may be held up until the first one is decoded, and have their own issues:

The other two Texas federal marriage cases are based in Austin. The state requested those be postponed pending the appeals court ruling in the other case. The Austin judge has yet to rule on the request. Those cases are further complicated because the plaintiffs in one of the cases, Chris McNosky and Sven Stricker, who are representing themselves, came out as straight in a recent interview with Dallas Voice.

There are also three divorce cases working through the system:

Meanwhile in state courts, same-sex divorce cases are moving forward. A San Antonio lesbian couple filed for divorce in March. The state tried to intervene, but a federal judge ruled that he cannot interfere. The couple has a child and wants the custody issue determined during court proceedings. Then in mid-May, a Tarrant County lesbian couple followed suit and filed to dissolve their union. Two same-sex divorce cases are currently being considered at the Texas Supreme Court. Hearings took place in November with a ruling expected in early summer before the court recess. But Jody Scheske, the couples’ attorney, said Texas doesn’t have a deadline for justices to issue a ruling. A controversial case they ruled on a few years ago took about four years before a decision was issued.

No word on if, or when any of these Texas marriage equality cases will be resolved.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Texas.

UK: Same-Sex Marriage Dawns, Equality Fight Continues

Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Warren Hartley and Kieran Bohan sign the Schedule of Civil Partnership at Ullet Unitarian Church in Liverpool

FIRST FOR EQUALITY: My partner and I become legally recognised as a couple on May 6th 2012 – the first time a civil partnership was registered in a place of worship in the UK.
PHOTO: Simply Perfection

THE CLOCKS WENT FORWARD in the UK last weekend, in more ways than one. The official start of British Summer Time with daylight saving coincided with the legalisation of same-sex marriages in England and Wales. So began an extraordinary week for LGBT equality.

On Saturday March 29th, lesbian and gay couples around the country vied to be the first to be legally married, with several timing their services as close to midnight as possible:

NEWS: Same-sex marriage now legal as first couples wed

An estimated 70 couples across England and Wales took advantage of the change in law on Saturday, and the media was filled with mostly positive portrayals of this landmark for equality.

A BBC survey revealed that 80% of people would attend a gay wedding if invited (though their headline focussed on the negative responses:

NEWS: Gay weddings: ‘Fifth of Britons would turn down invitation’

Twitter feeds filled with supportive messages from celebrities. Actor and comedian Les Dennis tweeted:

Sadly it was not all good news.

Click to continue »

Nebraska: Lesbian Couple Asks for Divorce

Friday, March 28th, 2014

NebraskaA lesbian couple has asked for a divorce in a case that could challenge the state’s marriage equality ban.

The Journal Star reports:

A Raymond woman who married her longtime, same-sex partner in Iowa in 2009 is now petitioning the Nebraska Supreme Court to be allowed to divorce.

How many states are left that don’t either have full marriage equality or have a lawsuit pending?

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Nebraska.

We need same-sex marriage so we can get divorced

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

 An Opinion Article

By Melanie Nathan, December 26, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 5.28.38 AMWhile we tend to tout equality only in the light of love, there is another glaring truth that we barely speak of; same-gender couples need marriage so they can get divorced. That is when, as a civil law institution, having marriage is imperative. Of course we need certain laws, such as tax laws, hospital visits, pensions etc., during marriage and hence we can make the argument why coupling without the choice to marry is unfair.  However we hardly ever make the argument that we need marriage so we can get divorced; we need it to define how we break up. Most people when advocating for our marriage rights, lose sight of this critical argument as to why it is so important to have parity under the law.

For years our gay and lesbian community has suffered the impact of not having the same rights as heterosexuals, who can choose to marry, regardless of what State they live in.  For years we have heard the religious right brow beat us into thinking that marriage is all about a Biblical interpretation of what God wants for all humans.  Let us not forget what marriage really is.  The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally a social union in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged.   However as important is the fact that marriage is a binding legal contract between two people, that establishes uniform rights and obligations between two spouses, and between the spouses in relation to their children.

So while same-gender couples are denied the benefit of civil marriage laws in many places, the greatest difficulty of not being married, is experienced when one needs a divorce, when it comes to the break up.  Same-sex couples are thus denied the advantage of clarity under the law, where their rights and obligations enjoy clear definition, causing uncertainty and prejudice at the time of termination. So one of the most important reasons for getting married is so that we can have clarity and fairness when it comes time to divorce.Why

I have been privy to the enormous impact of the lack of law to govern broken gay and lesbian relationships, where for example couples have been together treating their relationship as if married, for many years.  More often than not these couples experience serious imbalance in the financial and parenting aspects of the relationships.   Especially where one partner has stayed at home as a homemaker, while the other has an enhanced career.  Some relationships carry on for years, as if marital, yet without applicable laws, and unless one enters into written partnership agreements, early on, proving the intention of the financial understanding in the relationship, can be very difficult at the time of termination.

How to help couples who do not have marriage laws to define their breakup:
These types  of breakups are best served by mediation, using an experienced neutral third party, who has an understanding of the issues of same-sex couples, deprived of legal clarity, through lack of equal laws. Obviously married couples are also well served by mediation, in most cases.

It is the mediator who can ensure one or more of the  (non-exhaustive) following, depending on the individual case:-

1. Helping parties understand the law that ought to have applied to a relationship, but did not;

2. Helping parties define and reach agreement as to their intentions toward each other during the relationship;

3. Helping parties honor their commitments to each other, regardless of lack of law;

4. Creating an environment of understanding where each party validates the position of the other, thereby dispelling the assumptions that cause conflict;

5. Helping parents place the best interests of the children at the fore:

6. Ensuring smooth transitions by creating plans that include financial support and interim custody/parenting plans, pending final settlement;

7. Ensuring the parties are equally empowered through external resources;

8. Keeping the process productive and preventing unnecessary legal expenses, through early management of conflict and the avoidance of litigation;

9. Allowing the partners to control the outcome by reaching a fair agreement that creates a win/win scenario rather than a win/lose scenario.

 

USA, Mississippi: Judge Denies Divorce to Lesbian Couple

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Mississippi MapA Judge in Jackson, Mississippi, won’t let a lesbian couple who married in California get a divorce.

The Albuquerque Journal reports:

A Mississippi judge on Monday refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who got married in California, saying the marriage wasn’t recognized under state law, according to the woman who filed and her lawyer. Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, who filed for the divorce in September in north Mississippi’s DeSoto County, said in a telephone interview Monday that the judge seemed sympathetic and that she plans to appeal the ruling.

Even having a democrat in the AG office doesn’t make a difference in this blood-red state:

Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood’s office had argued that Mississippi can’t grant a divorce in a marriage it doesn’t recognize. Hood’s office said in a motion to intervene on Nov. 15 that Mississippi “has no obligation to give effect to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi’s expressly stated public policy.”

This is one of the next big battles in marriage equality – the right to divorce when things go wrong.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Mississippi.

USA, Arkansas: State Supreme Court Overturns Visitation Ban

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Arkansas Supreme Court - from Apple Maps

from Apple Maps

The Arkansas Supreme Court stood up for gay and lesbian parents yesterday.

Joe.My.God reports:

Another great win today by the ACLU: The Arkansas Supreme Court today reversed a lower court child custody order that prohibited a parent from having overnight visitation with his child in the presence of his long-term domestic partner. The ruling ends a widespread practice in Arkansas custody cases of courts automatically barring parents from living with an unmarried partner regardless of the circumstances.

So Arkansas courts can no longer mandate that your partner move out when your child from your previous marriage comes to visit. A big step for LGBT couples!

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Arkansas.