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DOMA decision makes divorce for gay couples easier

The big story in the U.S. this week has been the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which up to that point had denied federal benefits to legally married same sex couples. While many have focused on the benefits of this decision for gay couples who wish to get married, few have stopped to look at the other side of the coin. Indeed, the Court’s DOMA decision does make it somewhat easier and cheaper for gay couples who wish to get a divorce.

According to several experts, the Court’s DOMA decision will have a big impact on same sex couples efforts to get divorced. One big change is that divorcing same sex couples will no longer have to pay gift or inheritance taxes upon division of their assets. If an ex-spouse is ordered to pay spousal support, he will now be allowed to deduct that amount from his federal income taxes.

Of course, the ruling has not addressed some challenges that divorcing same sex couples are likely to face. For example, child custody disputes can be particularly difficult for gay couples when both parents have not formally adopted their children. If one parent is found to be unfit, the other parent may have to apply for custody. Furthermore, a non-biological parent who has not formally adopted a child may have a difficult time qualifying for visitation rights.

Although many details have yet to be determined, the DOMA decision is likely to lead to more same sex couples filing for divorce. 

Source: Market Watch, “Supreme Court simplifies gay divorce,” Quentin Fottrell, June 26, 2013

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