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Same-sex couples, divorce and "voiding" a marriage

As Texas courts continue to struggle with the question of recognizing same-sex marriage, same-sex couples who would like to dissolve their marriages are left in a kind of limbo. As long as Texas doesn't legally recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex, the state's courts cannot grant them a divorce.

Texas does provide one way for those in same-sex marriages to legally go their separate ways: They can petition to have a marriage voided. In one of several same-sex divorce cases currently wending their way through Texas courts, one of the women in a lesbian married couple has said she is comfortable with ending the marriage through petitioning to have it voided, but the other is not. The problem, as the woman sees it, is that voiding the marriage provides none of the rights that heterosexual married couples have when they divorce.

When married couples divorce, Texas family law provides certain protections to each party. For example, the right of equitable property division is meant to make sure that divorces don't end with one spouse impoverished while the other keeps all the marital property. However, if the court doesn't recognize the marriage, it can't legally enforce these rights.

Texans seeking a same-sex divorce may be able to obtain a divorce in a state that does recognize the marriage, but most states have residency requirements for those seeking a divorce. This means that the parties would have to move to the state for months at a time - a prohibitive expense for many people.

The law of same-sex marriage is changing rapidly in the United States, and legal authorities continue to argue with how to integrate these marriages and divorces into the law. At the same time, same-sex couples in Texas continue to have their own personal legal issues. Texas attorneys who are up to date with the changing legal landscape and have experience dealing with the unique legal issues of same-sex couples can help clients to stand up for their rights.

Source: CBS 11 News, "1st Same Sex Divorce Case Headed To North Texas Court," Jennifer Lindgren, May 15, 2014

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