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DOMA ruling affects divorce for same-sex couples

Marriage is one of the most important commitments a person can make in their lifetime. Massachusetts residents who choose same-sex marriage are usually filled with optimism and hope for the future of their relationship. No couple wants to think about the possibility of divorce. Unfortunately, many relationships do end, and understanding the laws in one's state, as well as the new rulings issued in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is important to protect one's interests when a marriage ends in divorce.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and therefore, residents of our state do not have to travel to other states to marry. With the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down part of the DOMA, federal benefits are now available to same-sex couples. Additionally, these couples are recognized on a federal level as being in a legal union. What does that mean for those Massachusetts's residents seeking divorce?

Because Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage, those who meet residency requirements are also able to divorce in Massachusetts. Given the new DOMA rulings, divorce for some same-sex couples will now become somewhat more complicated, especially if they have relocated to another state after they got married. Since federal benefits are now available for the spouses in same-sex marriages, these benefits will have to be considered during the dissolution of a marriage. Unfortunately, not all states recognize same-sex marriage, and therefore may not recognize a same-sex divorce, or the protections of the new laws.

State and federal laws affect many areas of divorce proceedings, including property division, monetary awards, child custody and how long one must wait to remarry. Once a couple makes the decision to end their marriage, it is vital that divorce decisions are made with caution. Due to the evolving rights for same-sex couples in regards to the benefits of marriage, it is important for same-sex couples to investigate their rights and options, and never feel that they are alone as help is available.

Source: Business Insider, "Gay Divorce Is Still A Huge Problem In America," Erin Fuchs, July 3, 2013

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