If you are in a registered domestic partnership or marriage with someone of the same sex, or a gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person separating from an opposite sex spouse, you might wonder if you can find an attorney who will understand your issues without judging. As a bisexual man myself, I know of this difficulty and so I practice as a LGBT friendly San Diego lawyer.
Do courts treat domestic partnerships similar to a marriage?
As far as courts are concerned, all the issues that courts look at when a married couple files for divorce are going to be issues when someone in a domestic partnership files for dissolution. This includes dividing community property, deciding if one partner owes partner support, who gets custody of the children, and whether anyone has to pay child support. Based on the recent Supreme Court decision in the DOMA case, it may make sense for you to consider getting married to your domestic partner.
But don’t judges sometimes have biases against same-sex relationships?
This is certainly an issue and in the past some judges have ruled based on their personal bias that it was not in the best interest of the child to spend time with a parent who is in a same-sex relationship. However, the Court of Appeal in California has made it clear that unless there is evidence of past abuse, a person’s sexual orientation is no good reason to deny custody. Hiring a gay-friendly San Diego attorney who has a personal history of dealing with biases in others based on his own same-sex relationship is a good way to ensure that these problems don’t become an issue in your case.
Can you help me understand what The Supreme Court’s recent decisions mean?
On June 28th of 2013 The Supreme Court issued two decisions that have a huge impact on same-sex couples in California. The Prop 8 decision allowed same-sex couples to get married again in California. The DOMA decision requires the federal government to recognize same-sex married couples. For now, this does not include couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions. I discussed these two cases in depth in one of my Legally LGBT columns for Gay San Diego. If you want to know if it makes sense for you to get married if you are already in a domestic partnership, I am happy to meet with you to discuss your situation.
But what if we weren’t married or domestic partners?
Family courts only hear cases where the couple separating was married or in a domestic partnership. This is because the law has a framework for dealing with issues that arise when the relationship breaks down and ends up in court. If you never formalized your relationship with your partner, you are limited to filing a breach of contract claim in civil court. Untangling your finances from a long-time partner can be difficult but sadly the courts don’t have a clear process for handling this. I can help you work out a separation agreement if you are both willing to sit down and discuss everything. In a mediation session I try to let both of you express your emotions and financial needs so that you can both accept the agreement and move on with your lives.