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Complications arise with same-sex marriages and divorce

On Aug. 29, the Internal Revenue Service said they would recognize all legal same-sex marriages for federal taxes. The announcement came just days after the U.S. military confirmed they would provide benefits to same-sex couples, and the State Department's provision to honor the union as they relate to immigration. Couples who live in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage might opt to wed in a state that does, such as Washington, in order to take advantage of these benefits. However, complications can arise should the couple later decide to seek a divorce.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples were denied all federal benefits. Since the law has been overturned, advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage have a number of questions of how to apply the new rights. Some policies consider the state in which the marriage was held while other policies look at the validity of same-sex marriage in the couple's home state. In other cases, it's not clear which approach the government will take.

Supporters of same-sex unions feel that Congress should pass laws that make the place where the marriage happened the determining factor. However, that could create problems for couples who might have a long way to travel in order to wed. In addition, they might not be able to celebrate their union with their loved ones. Further complications could include challenges if the couple decides to divorce as neither state might grant them that right. This burdens the couple with undue stress, complex legal issues and additional expenses.

Although DOMA has been overturned, the complications resulting from the legalization of same-sex marriage still affect these couples, especially when it comes to dissolving a union. A family attorney might be able to help clients who are seeking a divorce by staying abreast of new legislation regarding the subject and finding creative solutions that work with existing laws.

Source: Huffington Post, "Hidden Costs of Federal Marriage Benefits to Same-Sex Couples", Deborah Widiss, September 05, 2013

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