Affordable, reliable insurance can be difficult to acquire in Massachusetts and elsewhere and, as such, is a benefit that is worth fighting for. Widows and widowers who were in legally-recognized, same-sex relationships that have not remarried will now have the option of continuing insurance coverage from the United States Services Automobile Association. Divorced non-traditional couples that remain unmarried will also have access to the same benefits, according to the agreement. The change is part of an agreement the USAA made with the Attorney General’s office. The USAA provides insurance to members of the armed forces and their family members. In the past, the organization faced complaints that it ceased coverage for anyone in a same-sex relationship that ended in divorce or the death of one of the participants. Although Massachusetts began officially recognizing gay marriage in 2004, the USAA did not update its policies to include same-sex couples for eight years afterwards. Now, under the terms of the agreement, the USAA will provide benefits to the people whose requests were denied previously. The company will also pay a fine. In a statement released recently, the USAA claims the agreement is not a change from its regular practices. The company says it has offered benefits to non-traditional couples for the past two years. USAA asserts this includes both surviving spouses and divorcees — as long as they have not remarried. This agreement is one example of the difficulties non-traditional couples may face. Divorce or death of one of the partners only
The state of Massachusetts has recognized the marriages of non-traditional couples as legal unions since 2004. However, the federal government’s acknowledgement of these unions is critical in regards to finances. Non-traditional couples can now have access to their spouses Social Security survivor benefits, estate tax exemptions and federal pensions. This evens the playing field for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in regards to the financial benefits of marriage. Marriages recognized at the state level are important in regards to the ownership of property, when medical decisions need to be made and when the couple has children. Marriages recognized at the federal level bring greater financial security as well as federal health benefits to those in non-traditional marriages who have a spouse working for the federal government. The military will also be making changes due to the new federal ruling. All military spouses, — heterosexual unions, as well as same sex unions — will now be receiving the same military benefits. There are some issues which will still need to be overcome. Those same-sex couples who do not live in one of the 13 states that recognize same-sex marriages can have issues with some federal benefits due to the fact that the benefits are based on the rules of the state in which the beneficiary resides. Given this issue, it may be beneficial for non-traditional couples to reside in states which recognize their marriage as a legal union. The hope is that the current administration will be able to extend as
West coast lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would radically change the way that the American family is structured, at least in that state. a State Senator has proposed legislation that would allow courts in his state to recognize more than two people as the legal parents of a given child or children. This change could be applied to both non-traditional couples as well as other family units. The law has not yet made it to a vote, but the concept of augmenting the American family may be welcome news to many same-sex couples in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The bill is a reaction to a case that has made its way to a state appellate court. The case involved two women who were raising a child together. When one woman was incarcerated and the other hospitalized, their child entered the foster care system. The child’s biological father attempted to gain custody of the child, and was granted custody in a family court proceeding. That decision was overruled, however, when the appellate court ruled that California courts can only recognize two people as parents. Parental status can be gained through biological ties, adoption, or recognized legal contracts, such as in gay partnerships. However, when more than two persons fit the legal description of ‘parent,’ the courts are placed in a difficult position. Those in support of the new law claim that it would allow the courts to use common sense and to apply the best interests of the child approach
With more states permitting same-sex marriage, many same-sex couples have discovered the hard way that federal tax reporting for them is complicated and expensive. The same holds true for many state tax issues. These same tax hassles can become an issue when non-traditional couples who live in Massachusetts decide to file for divorce. The main reason that taxes, and finances, have become an issue is because the federal government has yet to recognize same-sex marriages. And since many states also do not recognize same-sex marriages, the problem is only compounded. For many of these couples, professional help in the form of accountants, lawyers and financial planners may be essential. To illustrate how complicated this can get, consider this: Married same-sex couples must file separate federal tax returns; this is a simple matter of fact. They can file joint state returns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa and Vermont. This is true also for New York, Connecticut and the District of Columbia, where the marriages are legal. They can also file joint state returns in Oregon and California, as well as New Jersey and Illinois, which recognize civil unions. It’s obvious that same-sex couples have a lot more challenges than others. Also, same-sex couples face financial issues that heterosexual marriages do not, such as the tax issue listed above. Knowing in advance what those challenges may be can help make the transition into marriage smoother. However, sometimes those additional challenges can be the catalyst to end what was once a happy union.