Since the 2015 Supreme Court decision establishing the right of same-sex couples to marry, the laws governing marriage and divorce apply equally to all couples across all 50 states. However, there are some situations that arise more frequently when members of the gay community divorce than when heterosexual couples split.
When you decide to dissolve your marriage, it is important to select a legal representative with experience representing gay people in family law actions. An Atlanta, GA LGBTQ divorce lawyer understands the issues unique to same-sex divorce and can offer sensitive and steadfast guidance throughout the process.
According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 19-5-2, an Atlanta family court has jurisdiction over a divorce if one of the spouses has lived in Fulton County for at least six months before the filing. You must also have legal grounds to divorce. Most couples cite irreconcilable differences, meaning they cannot get along well enough to stay married. When a couple has irreconcilable differences, neither spouse has to prove the other caused the marriage to fail.
When you divorce, you and your spouse must untangle your legal and financial lives. You must decide on how to divide the marital property and whether one spouse will receive alimony, which the law calls spousal support. If you have children, you must agree on custody, visitation, child support, and develop a parenting plan.
When a spouse files for divorce before the couple has agreements on all issues, they have a contested divorce. They continue to negotiate their disagreements while the divorce is pending through a series of status conferences with a judicial officer (JO). In between status conferences, each side’s attorneys will try to resolve the issues and craft a settlement.
If the couple has trouble reaching an agreement, the JO might send them to mediation. If they still cannot agree, the court will hold a trial and the judge will decide the outstanding issues.
When you and your spouse agree on all issues relevant to dissolving the marriage, you can petition for an uncontested divorce. Like a contested divorce, one spouse would file a divorce petition and the other would file an answer.
You would file your agreements regarding property, alimony, and parenting plans with the family court, along with detailed financial disclosures. The judge might hold a hearing to go over the documents with you and your spouse. The judge also would carefully review the parenting plan to ensure it supports your children’s best interests.
Although the law does not discriminate against LGBTQ couples in divorce, some aspects of many gay people’s lives can complicate divorce. It is important to work with a legal professional who understands the unique challenges gay Atlanta couples might face when divorcing.
For example, the law requires spouses to divide their marital property equitably and calls for ongoing spousal support in some cases. When the judge considers how to fairly divide property or whether a spouse deserves support after the divorce, the length of the marriage is one of the factors the judge may consider. Some long-term LGBTQ couples were together for a substantial period before gaining the legal right to marry in Georgia. If the judge considers only the time the couple were legally married, their decision might be unfair.
Issues with children can be complicated if one spouse has a biological or adoptive relationship with a child and the other does not. If the stepparent did not adopt the child during the marriage, they do not have custody and visitation rights after the marriage dissolves. An attorney can help a couple in this situation negotiate an agreement that protects the relationship between the stepparent and child for the child’s benefit.
Any divorce is challenging. You need an attorney who can explain the law, learn your goals, and work to achieve an outcome that positions you to move forward confidently into the next stage of your life. When you are a member of the queer community, you also need a legal representative with a deep understanding of the issues that often arise in LGBTQ divorces.
An Atlanta, GA LGBTQ divorce lawyer can help you through the process and advocate for your goals. Call today to get started.