The Rainbow Disconnection

Why the Wait for Nationwide Same-Sex Marriage Hasn't Stopped Same-Sex Divorce from Reaching Family Courts

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By Glenn Truitt
Special to THELAW.TV

There's no doubt that legalizing same-sex marriage in many states is a gradual process. There are often multiple houses of state legislature, committees, and sub-committees to go through, and after all that, you still end up on the state ballot. The number of years involved in these steps means that there may even be a new president by the time legalization occurs in your state.

Understandably, many would think same-sex couples won't be facing family law issues in their home state for quite awhile.

That's flat out untrue. In fact, family courts in all states are seeing a high number of same-sex couples in the courtroom. Even if they can't say "I do" yet in the state, same-sex couples are still pursuing divorces, custody arrangements, and dissolutions of domestic partnerships where they live. Even as these states wait to join the 13 states that have already legalized same-sex marriage, family law attorneys nationwide already have their hands full handling family law cases for same-sex couples.

It's no surprise that many of these couples are choosing Nevada to wage their legal battles. With one of the shortest residency requirements in the nation to initiate divorce proceedings – six weeks – Nevada isn't just a wedding destination. It's a hot spot for marriage dissolution, too. Plus, Nevada family lawyers are now in the position of handling same-sex divorces for out-of-state marriages, well ahead of the state's legalization of these unions.

There are still complications for same-sex cases in Nevada, though. The courts are divided on how to allow citizens of Nevada a legal remedy in this area of family law, without violating the State Constitution.

The issue is that the state doesn't acknowledge domestic partnerships from other jurisdictions, unless they have Nevada registration. There is division on how to handle divorces or dissolutions from other jurisdictions if they aren't registered or recognized by the state of Nevada, especially if they involve custody battles or division of assets.

In other words, it is still uncertain whether Nevada recognizes out-of-state, same-sex marriage, and whether there is a legal remedy for such couples. While the issue remains in limbo, our firm waits to hear if Family Court in Clark County will allow one of our gay clients, who was wed out-of-state, to get divorced.

The author, Glenn Truitt, is a Stanford-educated attorney and managing partner of Half Price Lawyers, a full-service law firm in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.

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