As Same-Sex Couples Line Up To Wed, Others Celebrate The Right To Divorce

As Same-Sex Couples Line Up To Wed, Others Celebrate The Right To Divorce
Gay Civil Partnership divorce.
Gay Civil Partnership divorce.

While courthouses around the nation are flush with same-sex couples ready to tie the knot, a New Orleans court has already seen another effect of marriage equality: divorce equality.

Shortly after the Supreme Court's landmark marriage equality ruling on Friday, Anna Wellman and Stephanie Baus filed for divorce at the Orleans Parish Civil District Court in Louisiana after years of waiting.

Making "bittersweet history" -- in the words of The Times-Picayune -- the couple quickly finalized their divorce before the city's first same-sex couple wed a few hours later.

Wellman and Baus were married in 2009 in Massachusetts, where marriage equality had been the law of the land since 2004. But when the pair decided to separate five years ago, they couldn't divorce in their home state since Louisiana didn't recognize their marriage.

Many states, such as Massachusetts, don't have a residency requirement to get married, but do have one to divorce. Depending on local laws, couples are required to reside in the state from six months to two years before getting a divorce. Before the Supreme Court's ruling, a same-sex couple seeking a divorce could end up tied financially, legally and emotionally to a partner regardless of whether they wanted to be.

And while that hurdle has been overcome in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, a host of other complexities involved in dissolving a same-sex union have cropped up.

Family attorney Michael Bialys with the California-based Gay Family Law Center told The Huffington Post that the tricky part with same-sex marriages is knowing when the clock starts on those unions, which affects common divorce issues like the division of property.

"Let's say I live with my partner in 2000. The minute we can become domestic partners in 2009, we do. And in 2012, we get married officially. And in 2015, we want to divorce: That issue hasn't been really addressed," Bialys said. "Are you entitled to all the benefits of marriage retroactively?"

Traditionally in common-law states such as Colorado or Kansas, the clock on a union can start once a couple passes the cohabitation threshold for a common-law marriage, even if they never get officially married. In civil states such as Louisiana and California, assessing the couple's community property starts only when they officially marry, regardless of how long they were together before that.

Custody may prove another tricky situation for divorcing same-sex couples, due to traditional perceptions of caregiver roles (which usually favor the mother) and biological ties when a child shares DNA with one or neither of the parents.

Just as overall divorce laws took a few decades to be fully formed, laws surrounding same-sex divorces may take a while to get up to speed.

"In the '50s, people weren't getting divorced, and in the '60s when it was happening more, the law caught up -- but it realistically took about 20 years for the law to catch up," Bialys said. Same-sex couples, he notes, may be in for a similarly long wait.

"It's going to be a while, and there are going to be inconsistencies in the decisions."

Before You Go

How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over by Theo Pauline Nestor
"When I realized that my husband was gone and it was now just me and our four children, I felt not only terrified but alone. All around me were my married friends, happily living their lives, making dinners, having Saturday night dates with other couples, planning trips. No one got it -- until I picked up Theo Pauline Nestor's memoir How To Sleep Alone In A King Size Bed and read this line: 'I feel like I’ve joined an enormous club, something like the Veterans of Foreign Wars. We are weary with battle fatigue and sometimes even gripped by nostalgia for the good old, bad old days, but our numbers are large.' Clearly, Theo got it. -Amy Koko
Codependent No More : How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
"During my divorce I was left with tons of questions and not enough answers. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself was like my Bible for almost two years. Suddenly it was like I understood what was happening. I knew that I was not alone. And I knew that I should love myself, even if my marriage was over." -Carol Schaffer
The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
"I was living in my head, fretting about the days to come, especially the initial court date. It sucked. This book helped me focus on what was right in front of me: my daughters. I owe it to my mom for sharing this one with me." -Jon Vaughn
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
"If I could recommend any book to divorced readers, it would be Wild for its can-do independent message!" - Jennifer Cullen
No One Is to Blame by Bob Hoffman
"I read this when my marriage fell apart and I was exhausted from reading books about how to survive infidelity. The book, which led me to take the course based on it, changed my life; it helped me realize how my family-of-origin issues were influencing my own family and how compassion and forgiveness -- for others and myself -- were essential to healing." -Vicki Larson
Milking the Moon: A Southerner's Story of Life on This Planet by Eugene Walter
"It’s about a life sumptuously lived. Eugene Walter was a founder of the Paris Review, a cryptographer in World War II, and an actor in Fellini films, among other adventures. He loved interesting people and was an incredibly literate, funny, charming person himself. Why read it while divorcing? Because Walter sets the example for a life well lived alone and in good company. This book never fails to cheer and inspire me." -Tracy Schorn
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
"This short story collection helped me laugh when nothing in the world seemed funny. Being able to find humor and laughter in really dark times reminds you that maybe not today, but one day, you'll be OK again. And no one writes like Sedaris. He is smart and funny and full of interesting observations about the human condition. It's a good book to take a day off with from your divorce." -Ann marie Houghtailing
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
"This book showed me how to stop attaching the judgments of 'good' and 'bad' to what was happening and move out of feeling like a victim. Letting go of all my 'shoulds' about marriage, divorce and relationships brought a huge sense of freedom to my life!" -Tammy Letherer
The Power of Intention: Learning To Co-create Your World Your Way by Dr. Wayne Dyer
"This brilliant book gave me permission to trust my intuition and provided me with a greater awareness of my power within. It provided strong pillars to lean on whenever self-doubt crept in and tried to sabotage my efforts. My collaborative divorce with my ex was built on the many nuggets of wisdom in this book and I am grateful to this day." -Carolyn Flower
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
"Through various phases of my divorce and the aftermath I have turned to The Awakening, a novel about a woman choosing life on her own terms, outside of what the rest of the world expects of her. Tragic ending aside, it's an inspiration." -Emma Johnson
Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirschenbaum
"This book alone was a lifesaver for me in deciding what to do as I struggled at the end of my marriage. As women, I think we often try to convince ourselves that things aren't as bad as they seem or that we know we need to 'fix' the state of our marriage but we aren't sure where to start. This book helped pull me out of the grey area and examine what was working in my marriage and what was not. It felt like a relief to approach my emotions with a little bit of logic. And ultimately, it helped propel me to action." -Nicole Jankowski
Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist's Journey Through the Hell of Divorce by Stacy Morrison
"This memoir is hilarious but most importantly, it reminded me that I would be OK." -Lindsey Jones
Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
"It's the best possible book to read. It's about ruin and heartache, being true to your authentic self and transformation and love. Everyone should read Liz Gilbert, but especially those in the middle of a major heartache. She's brilliant." -Kasey Ferris
Stop Walking On Eggshells by Paul T. Mason, MS and Randi Kreger
"You learn you can't fix crazy. And that it's OK to leave chaos." -John Robert Williams
The Art of Happiness In A Troubled World by the Dalai Lama
"Through this book, the Dalai Lama taught me that I had to learn happiness (or contentness) resided within me all along, whether I was married or single or divorced." -Shelley Wetton
Transformational Divorce: Discover Yourself, Reclaim Your Dreams, and Embrace Life's Unlimited Possibilities by Karen Kahn Wilson
"Written by a divorce coach and therapist, this book changed my perspective on my experience so that I could focus on where to go from here. After being in a marriage where I was always trying to change to accommodate my partner's wishes, divorce was a wake-up call to reconnect with the woman I was before marriage. The reflections, advice and activities in this book helped me clarify the new life I was rebuilding." -Beth Cone Kramer
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
"There's an exercise to write three pages every day in this book. On my worst days, it forced me out of bed when I wanted to hide from the world. I dumped my fears and hopes into a journal and that freed me. I faced the rest of the day with self-confidence and a belief that I would not just survive, but thrive." -Katherine Forsythe
Co-Parenting Works!: Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce by Tammy Daughtry
"This self-help book has such a positive outlook and vibe to it. It addresses different issues that come up during co-parenting but frames them in a way that motivates the reader to take a step back and deal with those issues in a more productive and positive manner." -Leah Porritt
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
"Pema Chodron became a Buddhist after her husband told her he had been having an affair and wanted a divorce. She couldn't find anything that helped her heal but then she found her way through studying Buddhism. I love her writing -- she is both funny and profound -- and this is the book of hers to pick up if you're dealing with any kind of major life change.Thanks to her writing, I began my (imperfect) meditation practice years ago." -Robin Amos Kahn
The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart by Constance Ahrons
"It's a bit on the 'case-study' side but this had a wealth of information on creating a positive post-divorce relationship with children involved." -Terri Shook
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
"This memoir has NOTHING to do with divorce or co-parenting...which is exactly why it was so helpful. Humor is an important aspect of dealing with difficult situations. Laughing keeps you sane. I literally laughed out loud reading this book -- just trust me, you've gotta read it." -Leah Porritt
Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways To Live To Be 100 by Maoshing Ni
"Reading this during my divorce was empowering, inspiring and made me focus on my well-being instead of what I was not able to control in my life." -Tamsen Fadal

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