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Residency requirements cause problems for same-sex divorce


As is often addressed by commentators dealing with same-sex marriage, many states throughout the country do not recognize same-sex marriages from states that have extended the right to marry to all couples. This can pose particularly difficult issues for same-sex couples seeking to get divorce in states other than the ones which granted them their marriage. However, one case of same sex divorce highlights an issue that couples married in Massachusetts may want to consider.


According to the case, the two plaintiffs were married in Vermont, a state that allows for same-sex marriage similar to Massachusetts. Also similar to Massachusetts, Vermont allows for marriages from non-residents meaning that an individual can come to the state simply for the purpose of getting married. After their wedding, the couple moved to another state, which posed a significant problem when, several years later, they sought to get divorced.

Unfortunately, because that state does not recognize same-sex marriage, they were unable to have their divorce finalized in the state.

But that was not the only problem. They also faced an unanticipated problem: residency requirements for divorce. Many states, including Massachusetts, require a couple to live in the state before they can process and divorce. This means that same-sex couples who were married in Massachusetts may not even be able to have their divorce finalized in Massachusetts if they have moved since their marriage.

Residency requirements are amongst one of the issues which make same-sex divorce uniquely difficult. However, there are many other issues such as entitlement to certain assets from before a marriage that may also make a same-sex divorce complicated. In order to help resolve issues such as these, same-sex couples may want to consult with an experienced lawyer and find information on possible courses of action.

Source: Salon, "Same-sex marriage needs same-sex divorce," Margaret Klaw, Sept. 24, 2013

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