On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking legal opinion in which marriage between two persons of the same sex was deemed legal and valid and represented a fundamental right of being a United States citizen.
Long story short, if you are gay or lesbian and wish to marry or divorce—you can do so, just like any heterosexual male or female. This is outstanding news for the gay and lesbian communities, and finally places them on an equal footing with other married and divorced persons in our great country.
Same Sex Marriage Rights are Here to Stay in All 50 states
Although marriage equality came to Arizona in late 2014, the June 2015 Supreme Court opinion and resulting nationwide impact was consistent with an emerging national state trend adopting same sex rights for gay and lesbian couples where more than half of the states in the country had already recognized these rights prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking June 2015 decision making it lawful in all 50 states.
Finally, if you are already married (to a same sex partner) and have lived in Arizona for at least 90 consecutive days, you are also eligible to file for divorce in Arizona to take advantage of Arizona community property laws.
Gay and lesbian marriage and divorce matters require particular care and legal skills that you might not otherwise need in a traditional heterosexual case. For example, if one spouse is attempting to seek the payment of spousal maintenance (a.k.a. alimony) from the higher earning spouse, there will be significant dispute about the duration of marriage depending on whether the couple was first married years earlier in an early-mover same sex jurisdiction (e.g. east coast states) and later moved to Arizona or California and then sought a divorce. The higher earning spouse will likely argue that the Arizona marriage should only be recognized from October 2014 forward insofar as that was when same sex marriage became legalized in Arizona. Other spouses will argue that the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015 decision date should be the controlling date for any new marriages thereafter. Put another way, there will be spirited litigation on these novel and complex issues which are unique to a same sex divorce context.
Arizona same sex divorce
Yes it is here, the right to marry and now the right to divorce. Same sex couples can now get a divorce and enjoy the same protections under the state’s domestic relations laws as heterosexual partners. This is particularly helpful for some because Arizona is one of only a handful of states that recognize community property. Arizona’s community property system is designed to provide a more fair, and equitable court allocated distribution of assets and debts at divorce, including potential spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony). Also, same sex couples can process a last-name change concurrent with the divorce to regain their maiden names upon issuance of the Decree. But it also requires being bound by the duties and responsibilities that come with the benefits of marriage in Arizona.
Arizona same sex paternity and child custody
Another looming issue that the advent of same sex marriage does not address is what happens regarding any children born outside the context of a marriage. Obviously, biological limits will cause many same sex couples to rely on Assisted Reproductive Technology to birth a child in common. In most cases, this involves a donor sperm party if the couple is female and a donor egg and surrogacy arrangement if the couple is male.
Even more interesting is that an unmarried non-biological parent does not “automatically” vest and become the child’s legal parent immediately upon birth. Moreover, mere same sex marriage status also does not necessarily end the paternity inquiry for the new child. Despite the Supreme Court’s ground breaking June 2015 decision to authorize same sex marriage, the law continues to be murky or completely silent on narrower issues such as same sex paternity, same sex pregnancies and same sex birth rights conferred by a concurrent paternity action. Birth certificates do not presently contemplate more than one biological Mother or Father to be listed thereon, let alone the legal rights and obligations that flow from that document if and when approved by a state court judge in an underlying paternity action.
Contact an Arizona same sex attorney
While the nuances of the new same sex marriage regime are evolving, you will want to engage a methodical and talented family law attorney to navigate your family through the system. Canterbury Law Group attorneys are lesbian and gay friendly with not only a mature and respectful adult case view, but also the technical legal skills to navigate this emerging body of law to deliver client certainty and results.
Call Canterbury Law Group, LLP today at 480-240-0040 to consult with an Arizona same sex lawyer who can review your unique situation and help you formulate strategies to best protect you, your current or future children, and your life ahead.