There are more similarities than differences in same-sex divorces and opposite sex divorces in Rhode Island, but understanding the differences isn’t necessarily easy. That’s why it’s important to hire a divorce lawyer with same-sex divorce experience.
When same-sex marriage were made legal throughout the country (Obergefell v. Hodges) it was obviously necessary that same-sex divorces be legalized. On the surface, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages appeared to completely level the playing field among same-sex and opposite-sex couples and for the most part, this is true.
As far as marital rights are concerned, you and your partner have the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex couples, regardless of what state you married in or where you currently live. But there are several practical differences that can complicate your divorce.
Parental Rights in Rhode Island Same-Sex Divorce
One of the problems that arises more often in same-sex divorces than in opposite-sex divorces is that in same-sex marriages there is more often one party who is not “legally” the parent of the couples child or children.
Historically, the law defined a legal parent as either a biological parent (or the gestational parent, if assisted reproductive technology was used) or a parent by way of adoption. In many cases, the non-biological spouse (the non-gestational spouse if assisted reproductive technology was utilized) had to adopt the couple’s child in order to have legal parenting rights. But frequently the adoption never actually occurs.
In 2020, Rhode Island passed the Uniform Parentage Act, which updated how legal parenting is determined. As of January 1, 2021, parenting rights in Rhode Island can be determined and established by the following:
- Assisted reproduction
- De facto parentage
Domestic Partnership and RI Same-Sex Divorce
If you and your spouse are legal domestic partners and your partnership was established in one of the states listed below, you might need to obtain a dissolution of your domestic partnership in addition to your divorce! States that recognize domestic partnerships include:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
The issue of dissolving domestic partnerships is extremely important. If you followed your out of state domestic partnership with a formal marriage, your marriage does not automatically end your domestic partnership if it was created in one of the states listed above.
As you can imagine, divorcing your spouse in Rhode Island, only to find out that you’re still bound to each other legally in another state, is quite disheartening, to say the least. You may need to take the necessary steps to dissolve your out of state domestic partnership, as well. You certainly need to find out if that’s the case.
Length of Marriage vs Length of Relationship
In divorce, a major factor in determining financial distribution, alimony, and property division is the length of your marriage. While this is often cut and dry in opposite-sex marriages, it’s not always the case for same-sex marriages.
As mentioned earlier, if you and your spouse entered into a domestic partnership in a state that recognized this form of the legal relationship, you’ve likely been together long-term. The Rhode Island court system typically bases the duration of marriage for same-sex spouses, even if you had a domestic partnership in another state, on the date you were legally married.
Whether you’ve been together for a long or short period of time, we can help you get the marital settlement you’re entitled to. Carl P. DeLuca, Attorney at Law, is an experienced Rhode Island divorce lawyer and will help you through this complicated time in your life. Let us help you put your life back together.