San Francisco lawyer Erik Newton gives his insight on the precedent-setting case currently being heard by Maryland’s highest court that will decide whether the state, which doesn’t permit same-sex marriage, will grant a divorce to a same-sex couple who married in another state.
San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) April 13, 2012
Same-sex couples are not allowed to get married under Maryland law, but does that also mean they are not allowed to get divorced there? The Court of Appeals of Maryland in Annapolis is currently considering this in case No. 69, Jessica Port v. Virginia Anne Cowan. Erik Newton, a partner at San Francisco family law firm Heath-Newton, explains the implications.
Newton says that a case like this was bound to surface, as gay couples living in one state where same-sex marriage is not allowed will often travel to another more progressive state in order to get married. Although this creates certain tax and financial complexities for the couple, it is a small price for many couples who view marriage as the ultimate symbol of their love and devotion, Newton believes.
“The real problems manifest if that couple later needs to divorce,” says Newton. “Maryland currently does not allow same-sex couples to marry-that is clear. The question is whether the state can then extend that prohibition to keep same-sex couples from divorcing as well.”
According to ABC News, after two women who wed in California were subsequently denied a divorce in Maryland when the marriage failed, they took the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals [No. 69, Jessica Port v. Virginia Anne Cowan]. The lawyers involved in the case said that some Maryland judges have granted divorces to about six gay couples, but others have denied divorces-citing different aspects of the law to justify their decisions.
“In a state such as Maryland, where the rules are inconsistent, one judge may grant a divorce while another may not,” explains Newton. “Whether or not a divorce is granted should not be decided on which judge is hearing the case.”
According to Erik Newton, couples who have been denied divorce have a few options that are a far cry from the ideal situation. One possible scenario is that they stay married. Newton suggests this could potentially be a problem because it means they can’t marry anyone else and are still financially responsible for one another.
Another option they have is to move to a state that allows same-sex divorce long enough to get jurisdiction in that state, which usually takes six months. Both these approaches, Newton says, can be expensive and put the couple in painful limbo.
Newton believes that whether or not the state recognizes same-sex marriage, they should allow same-sex couples to divorce. “The negative consequences are too great otherwise,” says Newton. “Besides, doesn’t it seem just a little too ironic that a state which says it doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage is forcing same-sex couples to stay married?”
Newton points out that California and the District of Columbia have recently enacted laws to alleviate this problem, at least for couples married in their jurisdictions. California enacted the Domestic Partnership Equality Act in January 2012, which allows same-sex couples married in California but living elsewhere to get divorced in California without having to be residents. DC passed a similar bill in March of 2012.
For more information about same-sex divorce cases, or any other family law matter, please contact San Francisco divorce attorneys Heath-Newton, LLP by calling (415) 992-5038, visit www.heathnewton.com, or stop by their office located at 240 Stockton Street, Suite 300 in San Francisco, California.
About Heath-Newton, LLP Heath-Newton, LLP is a San Francisco family law practice focused on families. These San Francisco divorce attorneys pride themselves on working with clients from all backgrounds and lifestyles. Heath-Newton, LLP specializes in premarital agreements (prenups), same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships, divorce, child support, spousal support, adoption, and child custody in San Francisco and the Bay Area.