Overwhelming Irony; Legal Gay Divorce

When it comes to getting a legal gay divorce, there are so many new issues popping up, and it gets so complicated, I’m not going to even try to grasp all the issues in one small post. One thing is certain right now: if you don’t live in a state where gay marriage is legal and you marry in a state where it is legal things can get complicated if you ever decide to divorce. If this article is correct, there could be a few serious ramifications.

The article from The Washington Post mentions a few interesting points that I didn’t know (or understand). Tony and I are still trying to figure out how the recent SCOTUS ruling is going to relate to us because we live in the State of PA. Our attorney is gay, and he practices in Princeton, NJ, and in Bucks County, PA, so at least we’re getting good advice for both states if gay marriage should become legal in NJ and we decide to move there (NJ is only a mile away).

But when it comes to divorce for gay couples, I think we’re only beginning to see the first of many issues to come.

Currently, none of the 50 states requires residency as a prerequisite for a marriage license. In other words, straight people can drive to Las Vegas from anywhere and get married at the Elvis chapel.

BUT it’s different with gay couples:

Divorce is solely the province of state law. If a couple who were wed in New York but live in Philadelphia want to be divorced, well, they can’t be. Not only is same-sex marriage prohibited in Pennsylvania — the court’s landmark ruling in United States v. Windsor does nothing to change that — but Pennsylvania’s “mini DOMA,” passed in 1996, provides that such a marriage entered into elsewhere is “void in this Commonwealth.” And if Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize you as being married, its courts have no authority to divorce you.

This is why I say that Tony and I are waiting right now: because we live in the Commonwealth of PA. I’ve been asked by several people if we are getting married now that the SCOTUS ruling changed the lives of so many other gay couples. But if we did go to New York and we were married there, we want to know what that means for us because we live in PA. So for many gay couples the SCOTUS ruling was a huge event. Yet for others who live in states like PA, we still have to worry. And from what I’m gathering, the complications go deeper than what I can write in this one post. This is why we have been talking with our attorney, whom we trust completely.

This next part is very interesting, and yet another reason we’re talking to our attorney.  Tony and I have several good friends who are PA residents and they are going up to Provincetown to get married this summer, where marriage is legal in MA, and I have to wonder if they really know what they are doing. I know that no one ever gets married with the thought of getting divorced, but I’m also a realist and I know that life happens sometimes. Cute, attractive young gay guys come along and middle aged gay men go through mid-life crisis just like straight men and women (trust me on this). The biggest shock of my life so far was when my ex-sister-in-law divorced my younger brother…an even bigger shock to him!! So shit does happen, and it can happen to all of us.

So the unhappy couple is stuck unless one of them moves to a state that will a) recognize their marriage; and b) lives there long enough to satisfy the residency requirement. What happens if neither spouse does this and one of them wants to marry someone else? She can’t. Because she’s still married. The irony is overwhelming: Gay people have fought so hard for marriage equality and now, when some of those marriages fail, they need to fight for the right to get divorced.

The irony IS overwhelming, and I can only suggest one thing to any gay couples who are thinking of getting married right now. Make sure you know where you stand legally if you live in a state where same sex marriage is NOT recognized. Don’t listen to idiots who don’t know what they are talking about either. Get good solid legal advice first. I’ve been with Tony for over twenty years and even though we’ve always been diligent about legal matters that involve power of attorney in all forms, I still am not sure what the SCOTUS ruling means for us at this particular time. And I wouldn’t even begin to hand out any advice…other than get legal counsel…at this point in time.

Gay Couples Getting Legal Issues In Order, Including Divorce

This post about gay couples getting wills in order wasn’t planned today. But I recently witnessed a situation that made me think about this more than usual and I figured I’d post something for those gay couples who have not taken the time to deal with wills and estates. Without legalized marriage on a federal level…I repeat: a FEDERAL level…this is extremely important.

And I’m not talking specifically about covering each other if one person in the relationship passes away or gets sick. I’ve gone there before with things like power of attorney and I’ll do it again at some point. That’s just as important as what I’m going to mention now, because if you don’t deal with these things while you’re alive and healthy you’re going to wind up screwed over big time….and so is your partner.

This post is more about your intentions, and how you’d like things to be carried out when you’re gone. About thirteen years ago Tony and I lost two very good old friends who had been together for forty years. They literally died within a year of each other, in spite of a fifteen year age difference, and I always thought the last one died from a broken heart. I’ve seen this often in long term gay relationships, especially when there are no children involved. Thankfully, these two men had their affairs in order, so to speak. When the first one passed, the survivor was protected and covered from money grubbing nieces and nephews…or those distant cousins you never hear from unless there’s money involved. Tony and I watched carefully, and we followed what they did with our own wills. Without this legal protection gay couples have nothing. And even with legal protection things can get confusing if family members decide to contest. At least it’s not easy for them.

But what about if something happens to both people in a gay relationship at the same time? Suppose the gay couple is killed in a car accident, or something just as bad happens. This is one of those issues that isn’t always addressed, and it’s just as important for straight couples who don’t have children and haven’t planned ahead (I’m assuming those with kids do this without thinking about it). Most of the gay couples I know who have been together for a long time have accumulated assets and I think it’s important to be prepared for anything. I would hate to think all Tony and I have worked for all our lives would wind up going to people we weren’t close to at all. So you need someone you can trust completely to handle these things and make sure your wishes and intentions are carried out. And that doesn’t always have to be a family member. It just has to be someone you care about and trust.

It’s just as important for single gay men, too. I know a gay man who isn’t in a relationship at this point and he decided to bypass his brothers and sisters in case anything happens to him and leave his entire estate to nieces and nephews. That’s his choice; there’s nothing wrong with that. And at least it sounds as if he’s prepared. In our case, Tony and I have one person appointed as executor, and then whatever we have would be divided between brothers and sisters. I personally don’t feel an obligation to nieces and nephews at this point in my life. I love them all, but I believe the next in line should be the people I grew up with: brothers and sisters. But everyone feels differently. We know one couple who can’t stand anyone in their family and they’ve left everything they have to charity in case something happens to both of them at the same time. We know another couple who left everything to friends. I see nothing wrong with that either.

You just have to be sure you’re prepared. So don’t put it off, and don’t forget about your pets. If something happens to both people in a gay relationship and they have pets they want them to be placed in good homes with people they trust. Your intentions are important, and when you’re gay and you don’t have children no one ever seems to consider this.

I’m not even going to get into gay divorce right now. That’s for a future post. But here’s a hint of what that will be about. I know a straight couple who got divorced recently and everything was divided 50/50 right down the line. It was the law; they didn’t have a choice. I also know a gay couple who got “divorced,” but because their marriage wasn’t recognized on a FEDERAL level everything they had was divided 80/20, including what was left after the sale of their home. And the one who wanted the divorce…the one who left his partner in mid-life crisis for someone twenty years younger…wound up getting 80% of everything they’d accumulated in twelve years. And the one who got dumped wound up with 20%. Not fair at all. If they’d been legally married it would have been 50/50. But that’s how it works because gay marriage is NOT legal.

Here’s a link to Rainbow Law in case you don’t have an attorney, where you can read about all this in more depth.

Don’t put it off.

Rainbow Law’s legal documents provide you with the right to:
  • Advance Directives let you authorize your partner (or some other person who is not your legal relative) to make medical and financial decisions for you when you are not able to speak for yourself;
  • A Medical Power of Attorney will authorize your partner to have primary rights to visit you in the hospital;
  • A Disposition of Remains will let your partner to make arrangements for your burial, cremation, funeral or memorial services;
  • A Will or Trust allows you to leave your house and/or other property to your partner or someone else;
  • A Will or Trust lets you disinherit someone who would otherwise have legal rights to inherit your property;
  • A Nomination of Guardian lets you choose your partner or someone else you trust to raise your minor children, and/or to make medical, educational and financial decisions for them until they are old enough to take care of themselves;
  • A Will or Trust lets you make arrangements for the care of your pets;
  • And more…