Same-sex divorce bill in D.C. closes unfair loophole

Massachusetts residents may be interested to know that pending legislation in the District of Columbia is designed to offer protection to same sex couples who married in the District and want to divorce, but now live in a state that does not recognize the marriage. To date, in addition to the District of Columbia, six states allow same-sex marriage. The proposed bill is titled the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Amendment Act of 2011 and is expected to come to a vote in early 2012. In effect, it allows same-sex couples no longer living in Washington, D.C., to process their divorce there under certain conditions. Previously, the law required that one party to the marriage live there for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.

The bill was cosponsored by eight of the D.C. Council’s 13 members. It is considered necessary because states that do permit same sex marriages have no mechanism for providing a divorce between a couple lawfully married in another jurisdiction. For the law to apply, the couple must have been married in the District.

Since so few states currently provide for same-sex marriage, the District of Columbia appears to offer an important safeguard for those wishing to divorce. The law in this area is constantly changing, and those affected would likely benefit from consulting an attorney experienced in family law and procedures as they apply to same-sex marriage. In enacting the proposed legislation, the District will be closing a loophole that seemingly leaves some same-sex married couples at a loss when they seek to divorce.

Source: The Washington Post, “D.C. weighs same-sex divorce bill,” Katie Rogers, Dec. 22, 2011

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