Same-sex marriage and divorce rates are on the rise, particularly lesbian divorce rates. Most people are not thinking about the breakdown of a marriage when it begins, yet unfortunately, many marriages end in divorce according to national statistics. There are many reasons why a couple may choose to split up, from infidelity or domestic violence to simply growing apart, yet none of these are easy to navigate for the people living through them.
For gay men and lesbian couples, divorce can occasionally feel particularly hard because they have also had to work much harder to have the right to marry each other, yet they do not want to stay in an unhealthy relationship. This leaves many same-sex couples in difficult spots.
This article will look at how the divorce process is similar for heterosexual couples and same-sex couples and how it can differ. It is important to keep in mind that this advice is general and each state will have its laws surrounding divorce and custody whether it be opposite-sex couples or same-sex couples, so speaking with an attorney who understands the laws in your state is the best practice.
Before we talk about same-sex divorces and how the process works, it is also important to recognize the difficulty that many same-sex couples have had to go through to have their marriage recognized in the same way that heterosexual marriages are recognized. Many states did not account for or recognize gay divorce in family law because the couples could not get legally married for much of recent history.
It was only recently that a same-sex couple could legally be together without being arrested, and for many couples, it was not until 2015 that their partnerships and unions could have legal recognition. Many had to be married in other states and could not receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples. Some same sex partners we only ever able to live together as partners in secret. Because of this history, the law around special considerations and other rules has only recently begun and will continue to develop as same-sex divorce practices grow.
Divorce in the LGBTQ+ Community
In many states, the divorce process is either very similar or the same as the process for heterosexual couples. When a marriage breaks down, the couple must decide how to divide the time between children, the money and assets that they share, and the debts that they have. Unless there is a prenuptial agreement between the parties, this will all need to be decided when the couple breaks up, and this is the same for same-sex couples in most ways. The couple can choose to amicably divorce by submitting a joint petition that outlines how everything will be divided or mediation or the parties may need to go to court to determine how to split up.
Custody of Children
For many couples, one of the first things they will need to consider when they divorce is how the time with the children they share will be divided. In most states, it is a common family law assumption that women will take on more time with the children. However, this is not always the case, and many factors can influence the best options for the children, including income, housing stability, and child support payments.
This can be further complicated by the law in the state surrounding how same-sex couples are allowed to parent children and the laws surrounding adoption. invitro fertilization, and surrogate carriers. For many same-sex divorces, custody will be decided based on the same factors as they would be at the end of heterosexual marriage, yet certain states may establish certain rules, particularly if one partner is genetically related to the child and the other is not.
Division of Marital Assets and Debts
The couple will also need to decide how to divide the money, assets, and debts that they have acquired during the marriage. Each state has a basic formula for how to divide this, usually requiring equality between the spouses. There are various ways for the parties to reach this equity.
Spousal maintenance is an ongoing monthly payment that one spouse makes to the other. Various factors go into the decision to order a spouse to make these payments, but the most common scenario is a long-term marriage where one spouse makes all or most of the income and the other spouse does not work or works very little to run the house and support the working spouse. In this kind of relationship, the nonworking spouse will often be unable to support themselves right away, so maintenance helps them stay afloat. This option applies to gay couples and those in same-sex marriages.
Division of the Assets
Another common consideration is how the couple will divide the assets that they have acquired, particularly the home if they own it. This is usually either sold or one party transfers their sake in the home to the other to offset money elsewhere. Anything accrued after marrying each other is often considered marital property and will need to be divided. The factors that the law weighs to determine this will be best explained by an attorney.
Factors Influencing the Gay and Lesbian Divorce Rate
While there have not been many studies done or data gathered outlining the rates of divorce among same-sex couples, it does seem that the divorce rates among lesbian couples are higher than those among gay male couples. Some people believe that gay marriages have a significantly lower divorce rate and that lesbian divorce rates are higher because women have a higher likelihood of filing for divorce according to data, regardless of whether they are a lesbian couple or in a straight marriage. However, this has not been proven or studied well.
Some factors that may influence the lesbian divorce rate include adultery, unreasonable behavior by one spouse, unequal partnerships, feeling ignored or abandoned, and domestic violence. However, lesbians are not the only demographic that faces these statistics, and many other marriages will fail for the same reason, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of either party.
Understanding that marrying someone is a legal commitment and divorce is a possibility that comes with a heavy price tag is important to consider and will influence national statistics on the divorce rates for years to come. Ending a marriage is never an easy decision, regardless of the sex of the couple. And luckily, marriage and divorce equality laws protect everyone, regardless of whom a person chooses to spend their life with.
To learn more about lesbian divorce rates, handling the divorce process, divorce mediation, and more, contact ADR Times!