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Understanding Gay Divorce

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With the presidential election just around the corner, we at Total Divorce put together an infographic that highlights an important topic that is often overlooked when discussing same-sex marriage: same-sex divorce.

understanding same-sex divorce

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Unequal Marriage Equality Laws Cause Complications

Same-sex marriage is legal in 6 states and Washington, D.C.

Year of Effective Recognition for Same-sex Marriage

Massachusetts - 2004

Connecticut - 2008

Vermont - 2009

Iowa - 2009

New Hampshire - 2009

District of Columbia -2010

New York - 2011

State of Same-Sex Marriage

If these states allow marriage, how many gay couples are getting married? Here's a snapshot to give you and idea:

Number of Marriages

Massachusetts (2004-2009) - 16,129

D.C. (2010) - 3,500

Connecticut (2008-2010) - 4,616

Vermont (2009-2010) - 1,425

Iowa (2009-2010) - 2,099

New Hampshire (2010) - 986

New York - 8,091 (Data covers when the law was passed to Feb. 2012)

Same-sex coupled tend to favor marriage over other union options.

In the first year their states allowed same-sex marriage, 20% of couples got married. In the first year their states allowed civil union or broad domestic partnership, 18% of couples entered into this legal status.

If the first year their states allowed legal relationship statuses with limited rights, only 8% entered into this status.

Status of Same-Sex Divorces

There's no residency requirement to get married in the states that allow same-sex marriage. But, what happens if the couples want to divorce and they're in a state that doesn't recognize the marriage?

  • Some states that don't allow same-sex marriage won't grant divorces for same-sex couples that married in another state.

Why does this pose a problem for gay couples?

For one, neither spouse could get married or enter a civil union with another person. They could face bigamy charges.

Someone would have to become a resident of the state he/she was married in to get the divorce.

  • Residency requirements mean living in the state anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

There are general issues when same-sex couples try to get divorced, as well.

  • The Federal Government doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.
  • Retirement packages aren't easily divided.
  • Tax issues arise because the IRS doesn't have guidelines.

It's difficult to legally determine the length of the marriage.

  • Couples could have been together before same-sex marriage was legal, making it hard to measure how many years "count" toward marriage.
  • Length is important to determine because it is used by the courts to figure out how to split the property.

The legal process of divorce mandated by each state is meant to compel exes to seek fairness in their dealings with one another.

This is done to protect the less well-off spouse and any children the couple may have by requiring:

  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Maintenance payments


Even though some states allow same-sex marriage, the difficulties around same-sex divorce raises some legitimate questions: What will be done in the future to legally protect gay spouses?