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Are you currently in a gay marriage and thinking about getting a divorce? If so, it is essential for you to understand your legal rights and options. Since same-sex marriage is relatively new, the laws and procedures governing same-sex divorce are still developing. The truth of the matter is that not all Los Angeles divorce attorneys will be prepared to help you navigate your gay divorce. You’ll need the help of a compassionate LGBTQ divorce attorney who has an in-depth understanding of this evolving area of the law.
At Fernandez & Karney, our attorneys have more than 50 years of combined legal experience. We’ve handled the most complex and delicate family law matters across Los Angeles. We know that divorce can be an incredibly stressful time in your life, especially if children are involved. We’re here to help you with all aspects of your divorce, including property division, child custody, support matters, and more. Contact our Los Angeles LGBTQ divorce lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
Today, LGBT couples enjoy the right to get married in Los Angeles. Hundreds of thousands of couples have taken the walk down the aisle since gay marriage was legalized back in 2015. However, not all relationships are built to last. A divorce is an option for married same-sex couples who no longer want to be together.
Understanding Your Rights During an LGBTQ Divorce in Los Angeles
When you decide to get divorced you are choosing to end your marriage. Once the divorce is finalized you will no longer enjoy the rights and benefits that are extended to married couples. Your status as a single person will be restored. It’s important to understand this as you navigate your divorce. Why? The way you handle your divorce will affect your future. Exercising your rights during a divorce will help you to secure the best possible results.
California is a community property state. As a result, each spouse is entitled to half of all community property. Community property refers to assets and liabilities that are owned by both spouses. This typically includes anything that is obtained by the spouses, whether individually or collectively, after marriage. Examples include:
- Wages and income
- Retirement benefits
- Real estate
- Interests in a business or partnership
- Intellectual property
There’s also another type of property classification: separate. Separate property is owned by each spouse individually. This typically refers to property that was owned prior to marriage. When you get divorced, your separate property is yours to keep.
When you get divorced you and your spouse must disclose all of your assets and liabilities. This helps to ensure full transparency and that assets (and debts) are divided equally. You have a right to know about all property that is owned by your spouse. If it was obtained after you were married, you likely have an ownership interest in it. Our LGBTQ divorce attorneys will do a thorough accounting of all property owned by you and your spouse. We work with experts to make sure that everything is valued properly. This helps you to secure the best result in your gay divorce.
When heterosexual parents get divorced, each share obligations and rights regarding their children. Things are a bit more complicated when same-sex parents decide to split. Just because you and your spouse are married does not necessarily mean that you are both legally acknowledged as a parent. You will only have custodial rights to a child if you:
- Are the child’s biological parent (establishing paternity may be necessary), or
- Have legally adopted the child.
If you are not a legal parent of your child, it can be much more difficult to secure custodial rights in your divorce. However, it is not impossible. If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on custody, a court will step in and make decisions on your behalf. Courts will always want to do what is in a child’s best interest. If it is clear that your child would benefit from having you in his or her life, a court may overlook the fact that you have not yet secured legal parental rights.
When parents are married, it’s easy to make sure that a child’s financial needs are met. Divorce can make things much more complicated. In a divorce, each parent has an obligation to make sure a child is taken care of. How much a parent has to contribute to a child’s support will depend on:
- Each parent’s financial situation (e.g. income, assets, job)
- Each parent’s ability to contribute
- The couple’s child custody arrangement
Generally speaking, the custodial parent shares less of the burden to pay child support. This parent tends to spend more time with the child, provides housing, and often takes care of many day-to-day expenses. The non-custodial parent (or parent with a smaller custody timeshare) will often be required to pay support.
You have the right to make sure that child support obligations are calculated properly. Our Los Angeles LGBTQ attorneys will make sure that any information that is relevant to a child support decision is disclosed. If you are a custodial parent, we can help you secure the money your child needs. If you are a non-custodial parent, we will make sure that you pay no more support than is absolutely necessary.
Spousal support, which is often referred to as alimony, may be available in LGBTQ divorce cases. It’s typically awarded in situations where one spouse earns much more than the other. This is often the case when one spouse stops working to take care of the family and/or support the other spouse’s career and education. The payment is intended to allow the lower-earning spouse acclimate to life after divorce.
The duration of alimony payments typically depends on how long the marriage lasted. Since same-sex marriage has only been legal for a short period of time, most divorcing gay spouses will only qualify for alimony for a short period of time.
Residency Requirements for Gay Divorce in Los Angeles
California has a residency requirement for divorcing heterosexual couples. The same is not true for LGBT couples. Why? For years, California was one of a handful of states to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. As a result, LGBTQ couples from across the nation visited the state to tie the knot. Today, those couples may find that it is difficult to get divorced back in their home states. While marriage is legal nationwide, many states are making it very tough for couples to exercise their rights. As a result, getting divorced may take a while or be a long, drawn-out process.
California waives the residency requirement for gay couples. The state will allow couples who were married in the state to request a divorce, regardless of where they currently live. However, it is important to understand that California may not have jurisdiction over certain legal issues that affect your divorce. It’s important to work with an experienced LGBTQ divorce lawyer in Los Angeles who can help you navigate these very complex situations.
Divorce Will Take a Minimum of Six Months
Divorce isn’t something you can start and finish in a matter of days. This is true even if you and your spouse can agree about each and every aspect of the split. California law states that the process of divorce must take at least 6 months. The countdown typically begins when the spouse who files the request for the divorce (the petitioner) formally serves the divorce papers on the other spouse (the respondent).
Once six months have gone by, a judge has the authority to review your petition for a divorce. However, the judge will not sign off unless you have agreed to all of the relevant terms of your split. This includes things like property division, child custody, and visitation.
Alternatives to Gay Divorce in Los Angeles
Divorce is not the only way to end your marriage in Los Angeles. There are other less expensive and less time-consuming options. These options may only be available to you if you satisfy the minimum requirements.
Annulment is the process of ending a marriage that is void or voidable. Put another way, annulment allows you to dissolve a marriage that was never legal in the first place. A marriage may be void or voidable if:
- The marriage certificate was never filed
- The spouses are related
- One (or both) spouses was already married
- One (or both) spouses didn’t meet minimum age requirements
- A spouse demonstrates a physical or mental incapacity, or
- The marriage is based on a fraud.
When a marriage is annulled it is as if it never happened at all.
Summary dissolution can help young couples who have not been married for an extended period of time. You’ll qualify if you have been married for less than 5 years, share no children together, and own no real property together. If you choose summary dissolution you will be required to divide all of your marital assets.
Separation doesn’t technically end your marriage. However, it does allow you to take time away from your spouse will still enjoying the benefits of marriage. When you are separated, you can carry on like you’re single but still enjoy the health, tax, and retirement benefits of marriage.
Call Our Los Angeles LGBTQ Divorce Attorneys
Getting divorced is never easy. The process can be more complicated if you are trying to end a gay marriage. The best thing you can do is hire a Los Angeles LGBTQ divorce attorney who knows how to handle these complex cases. Contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Fernandez & Karney for help. We have over 50 years of combined legal experience and know how delicate matters like yours must be handled. We’ll help you identify what you want to get out of your divorce and design a strategy to make it happen. Call us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll review your case and help you understand your rights.