Same-Sex Marriage And Divorce

Addressing The Legal Needs And Concerns Of LGBTQ+ Couples

I am New York matrimonial attorney Shannon K. Hynes​. For over a decade, I have helped same-sex couples and people who identify as LGQBTQI (or LGBTQ+) with marital legal issues. No matter how you identify, in New York marriage is a legal contract. This contract creates certain obligations that many people who identify as LGBTQI did not have before.

The best way to ensure that you understand both your rights and your obligations when you enter or dissolve a marital union is to speak with a legal professional who works with couples facing these sometimes-unique issues.

Same-Sex Divorce When There Are Children

Two issues are of special concern for same-sex or non-cis couples: parenting time and division of property. With same-sex couples, a child may be adopted or the child may be the biological offspring of only one parent. This can affect the way parenting time, custody, child and spousal support are handled.

Due to the recent change in the law allowing same-sex couples to have their union recognized by the state, many couples do not understand:

  • How cohabitation before marriage may affect the division of assets in New York
  • “Who owns what” when accumulated assets or a business is involved
  • What is taken into account when determining child and spousal support

Another issue that can affect the division of assets is if one partner worked to support the other while that partner was in school or developed a business or product. New York is a no-fault divorce state and does recognize a difference between separate property and community property. When one partner works directly to accumulate most of the wealth, or inherits wealth, the division can become more complex. New York, as a no-fault state, also seeks to equitably apply the division of debt in a divorce.

Getting Divorced In A No-Fault State

In New York, only the years you were legally married are taken into account. There also is no required “cooling off” period after filing for divorce. You must only attest that your marriage is broken, has been broken for over six months and cannot be fixed. There are also residency requirements which must be met.

Who pays for health care, who owns or “gets” the house, how will retirement funds be divided are all common questions and concerns. Many people are concerned about protecting their investments, business or the property they owned before the marriage. As an experienced attorney who has worked with hundreds of couples facing these same or similar issues, I can offer sound guidance and advice.

Protecting Your Business, Planning For “What If”

One way to ensure that both parties understand what they are bringing into the union, and what they can expect should the marriage last less than a lifetime, is to create a prenuptial (created before the marriage) or postnuptial (created any time after the marriage) agreement.

It is a commonly held, and false, belief that these agreements are expensive and are only for those with accumulated wealth. Prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements can help couples create a shared vision. These agreements clarify what financial assets are being brought to the marriage, which are being kept as separate and what will happen to those assets should the marriage last less than a lifetime. A prenuptial agreement does not mean “I don’t trust you” or “I believe the marriage will fail.”

Conversely, these agreements convey that partners DO trust one another enough to be upfront and honest from the outset. Planning this way can be a way of saying, “I love you enough to create a plan now, while we are on good terms and clear-headed.” An agreement can clarify expectations and obligations for both people. Anyone who owns a house or business and who is getting married can benefit from an agreement. And yes, those who have substantial assets would also do well to create a plan.

Speak With An Attorney Who Knows The Issues

If you’re looking to move on with your life, as fast as possible with as little grief as possible, I can help. Please call the law office of Shannon K. Hynes at 516-408-3666. You can also email me, attorney Shannon K. Hynes. I am happy to discuss what you need and how I can help in an introductory phone meeting.