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DOMA repeal may have implications for same-sex divorce


Since Massachusetts started to recognize same-sex marriages, there has been no shortage of difficulties in getting these couples the same benefits to which other couples are entitled. In many cases, these difficulties crossed over into same sex divorces as well, with certain state and federal laws making the process complicated. However, this may be about to change.

Supporters of same-sex marriage rejoiced earlier this week as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. This ruling effectively allows for same-sex couples to receive federal benefits from their spouses, which were previously out of their reach. This means that same-sex couples will now be considered legal spouses on a federal level, entitling them to benefits such as retirement plans, social security benefits, and tax benefits.

As an expected consequence of these expanded benefits, the assets considered in a same-sex divorce are also going to include them now as well. Like any other married couple, same-sex spouses will now need to go through the process of complex property division, including federal benefits. Similarly, same-sex couples will now also need to consider the federal tax implications of a divorce, which can have significant financial consequences during a divorce.

Yet, as with any new law, government agencies and lawyers alike will need to update their procedures to keep up with the change. In these times, same-sex couples trying to navigate the new benefits may still run into legal difficulties, particularly in same-sex divorces. For those who are considering a divorce, speaking with an attorney about the possible complications can be beneficial before making any final decisions.

Source: Stamford Advocate, "DOMA ruling means big retirement benefits for gay marrieds," Julie Jason, June 28, 2013

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