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From same sex marriage to same sex divorce

Same sex marriage is currently hotly debated across the country. But with Massachusetts being one of the first states to legalize same sex marriage, that controversy is largely settled in the commonwealth. Now the commonwealth is facing a more practical problem: the process of same sex divorce.

A couple from Massachusetts has a story that is typical of couples across the country. The two met when they were young and after several years together decided to get married. But after seven years of marriage the two began to drift apart and decided that a divorce was the best way forward. Indeed, the couple's story would be entirely unremarkable were it not for the fact that they were a same sex couple.

While the division of the couple's property was relatively straightforward under Massachusetts law, differences between Massachusetts law and federal law can complicate a same sex divorce.

Current federal law does not recognize same sex marriages. This means that many federal benefits that are available to heterosexual couples, such as pensions and Social Security, are not available to same sex couples. Same sex couples can also see much higher federal tax liabilities as a result of their divorce, although this can be mitigated through careful financial planning.

Same sex couples who are divorcing face challenges that heterosexual couples do not. Many same sex couples say that worry about how their same sex divorce will be viewed by society as a whole. Same sex couples feel that by choosing to divorce, they are reinforcing old stereotypes of promiscuous homosexuals that are unable to maintain stable relationships.

Same sex couples, including the couple from Massachusetts, also lament the lack of emotional support for same sex divorcés. Heterosexual divorcés can turn to support groups, which as of yet do not exist for same sex divorcés.

While same sex divorces can be complicated, it can allow same sex couples to put negative relationships in the past and get a fresh start on life.

Source: New York Magazine, "From 'I Do' to 'I'm Done'," Jesse Green, Feb. 24, 2013

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