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Spousal Support & Custody in Ohio Same-Sex Divorce Proceedings

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

June 26th, 2015 proved to be a significant day for the civil rights movement in our country. In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Obergefell requires all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.

Although widely celebrated throughout the country, Obergefell raised serious new issues about divorce proceedings-especially those of same-sex couples. As same-sex marriage numbers increased significantly, so did divorces. In this post we will examine the unique issues facing same-sex couples and their divorce attorneys in Ohio.

1. Date of Marriage & Spousal Support In Ohio Same-Sex Divorce Matters

Although not legally recognized by all states until 2015, same sex unions were often informally solidified through commitment ceremonies which included exchange of vows. Following Obergefell, many informal unions were solidified and recognized legally throughout the country. The commitment ceremonies, however, left room for interpretation in same-sex divorce proceedings in Ohio. Because these ceremonies were not legally binding, would the date of marriage be legally recognized as the date of a legal union or the date of the preceding commitment ceremony? Could an argument be made to establish a “de facto” marriage date (i.e. a term used for certain couples who live together for a long period of time without being legally married)? Although an argument can be made for both scenarios, the date chosen will have significant impact on spousal support for long-term unions. While there is no clear answer yet, court decisions made in the next several years will provide clarity on these issues and how future cases will be handled by the courts.

2.Custody & Adoption Issues In Ohio

In addition to complex spousal support issues, same-sex divorce cases present a unique and challenging child custody situation for both parties. In cases where one party is the biological parent and a formal adoption was not completed by the other party, the sole legal custodian and residential parent is the biological parent by default. Therefore, the outcome of many same-sex divorce/custody matters relies on the series of events that occur in the years preceding the actual separation. Finding a quality adoption attorney can prove to be highly beneficial to same-sex couples looking to start a family.

The ambiguity in the law, coupled with very complex issues facing same-sex couples, makes choosing the right Ohio divorce attorney the most important step in divorce proceedings. Your legal team should be well versed in a myriad of legal issues, including custody, adoption, and financial settlement.

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