LGBTQ couples still face unique divorce issues

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

Although divorces of LGBT couples in New Jersey are mostly treated in the same way as those of heterosexual couples, there are some unique challenges. Even with changes to the language of divorce laws, some couples were together for decades before they were allowed to get married. If they file for divorce now, they have only been married for a few years in the eyes of the law, with potentially severe impacts on matters such as property division. It complicates the division of assets accumulated as a couple in the years prior to marriage.

Some child-related issues can also be significant issues, especially when one spouse is the biological parent. It might be a challenge to establish a legal tie between the nonbiological spouse and the child. It could play a role in decisions about child custody, child and spousal support, and even the child’s inheritance. In heterosexual marriages, it is presumed that the spouse of a woman who gave birth to a child is the other parent.

State laws might allow the nonbiological parent to adopt the child if the couple is married. This is typically called a stepparent adoption, and it is a way to establish parental rights for that parent. Although the manners in which the courts deal with LGBTQ child-related issues are continually evolving, some judges continue to believe that a mother who carried the baby for nine months would automatically have a much stronger bond with the child, and would be the more suitable parent to get custody.

These are but some of the legal hurdles LGBTQ couples come up against if they decide to file for divorce. For this reason, many New Jersey people facing these challenges utilize the skills of an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer who is up to date with the state laws that apply to LGBTQ divorces can assess the circumstances and explain the options that will allow the client to make informed decisions that will be in the best interests of the child as well as the client. 

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