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Same-sex couples confronting complex divorce settlements

Divorce and family laws in the United States are going through major changes. In particular, same-sex couples may be faced with a daunting variety of laws on the state and federal levels. With increased numbers of gay marriages in New York has come a rise in gay divorces. That may not be surprising, but the initial euphoria surrounding gay marriage rights has, for many spouses, given way to marital strife common to same-sex and different-sex relationships.

The laws from state to state can differ significantly in heterosexual divorces, but gay couples face an especially confusing situation. Divorce settlements, in particular, can become rather complicated if a New York couple has property or assets in another state, such as Pennsylvania, which doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Estate-related issues such as pensions, retirement accounts, taxes, inheritances and real estate are treated differently in different states and by the federal government. And this is especially true for same-sex couples.

For example, consider some of the states around New York. Gay couples can get married in Washington, D.C., and Maryland now recognizes gay marriage. But if you go to Delaware, that state only allows civil unions for same-sex couples. And, again, Pennsylvania doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, nor would a gay divorce be recognized in that state. Like Delaware, New Jersey is only a civil union state for gay couples.

Rhode Island has the odd reputation of recognizing civil unions and gay marriage, but courts there have refused to grant a same-sex divorce. Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York all recognize same-sex marriage, but it's not difficult to see how complex property division could become if assets are held over state lines or if a same-sex couple got married in more than one state.

Anyone with questions about dividing property in a marital split is encouraged to visit our Manhattan complex divorce site. Our firm helps divorcing spouses reach fair and equitable settlements.

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

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