As with any marriage, same-sex couples sometimes decide to separate or divorce. While divorce laws are the same for straight, gay, and lesbian couples, same-sex couples can face unique issues that don’t arise when heterosexuals divorce. A West Hartford LGBTQ+ family lawyer at Freed Marcroft understands your issues and will help you navigate them with experience, sensitivity, and compassion.
Settling Family-Related Issues for Same-Sex Parents
All couples who divorce in Connecticut must divide their marital property and decide whether one of the spouses will receive alimony. Couples with children must decide which parent will have primary physical custody and decision-making authority or whether the parents will share those responsibilities. The parents must create a detailed parenting plan that covers custody, visitation, decision-making, and child support.
These decisions can be included in marital agreements that list the individual and marital property and describe how they will be divided. Divorce courts honor agreements made before or during a marriage. If you plan to get married, you should contact Freed Marcroft to work with one of our West Hartford LGBTQ+ family attorneys on a valid prenuptial agreement.
However, Connecticut does not allow premarital agreements to govern child support. Although couples can include child custody and visitation arrangements in a prenup, the divorce court won’t honor them if they don’t serve the children’s best interests at the time of the divorce. Also, while a prenup might include a provision limiting alimony, the divorce court could order alimony despite the prenup if the disadvantaged spouse would need public assistance without it.
Property Division Complexities in Same-Sex Divorces
Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81 calls for the equitable distribution of marital property at the time of a divorce. The state considers marital property to be any property (or debt) either spouse owns at the time of divorce, whether one partner owns it individually or the couple owns it jointly. Equitable distribution means “fair” under the circumstances but not necessarily “equal.” In Connecticut, nearly all property is subject to distribution, including property listed in one spouse’s name or property they owned before the marriage.
When determining how to divide property equitably, the judge often takes the length of the marriage as a primary consideration. Unfortunately, Connecticut only began recognizing same-sex marriages in 2008, and civil unions did not convert to legal marriages until 2010.
If you’ve been with your partner since before 2008 and are currently financially disadvantaged, the length of your marriage may not accurately reflect your financial contributions to the relationship. A West Hartford LGBTQ+ attorney at Freed Marcroft can work to ensure the judge recognizes all the years you devoted to your former partner, not just the years of legally recognized marriage.
Child Custody Issues in LGBTQ+ Divorce
Establishing legal parentage for children raised by a same-sex couple is sometimes challenging. If the couple adopts the child together, both are legal parents with equal parental rights. The law provides both parents an equal opportunity for parenting time and decision-making authority, and both parents have obligations to support the child financially.
However, if one spouse enters the marriage with children, the state considers that person the children’s sole legal parent unless the other spouse adopts them. If the couple has children through surrogacy or artificial insemination before marriage, understanding the non-biological parent’s rights can be complex.
A spouse who has acted like a parent to children but has no parental rights may be able to gain visitation rights after a divorce if they can prove that severing the relationship would harm the children. In addition, if you have a close relationship with your former spouse’s children but have not adopted them, our West Hartford LGBTQ+ family attorneys can help you gain visitation rights and protect those valuable relationships after your divorce.
Trust a West Hartford Attorney To Guide You Through LGBTQ+ Family Issues
The end of a marriage comes with many legal considerations, and divorce is less overwhelming when you have an experienced attorney guiding you. A West Hartford LGBTQ+ family lawyer at our firm can help you navigate it all. Call Freed Marcroft today to schedule a conference where we get to know you, your family, and your values.