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Gay divorce bill removes extra hurdle for domestic couples

SF Public Press
 — May 17 2010 - 12:26pm

California’s same-sex domestic partners and married couples seeking breakups should find those processes simpler if the Separation Equity Act bill that passed in the state Assembly on Thursday passes the Senate as well.

Some couples are united as domestic partners and as legally married spouses. That is because many domestic partners chose to marry each other when the option became legally available to them. But current divorce law requires them to dissolve each of the unions separately.

According to proponents of the bill, couples who represent themselves in their divorce might not be aware that both processes have to be completed. They are also required to pay a separate fee for each.

How did California end up with couples caught in this bizarre situation? The state of California, which started performing same-sex marriages in 2008, halted them following the passage, later that year, of Proposition 8. Proposition 8 established a statewide ban on same-sex marriage. Opponents appealed the proposition to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the measure infringed on the constitutional rights of other same-sex couples who wanted to marry but could not.

The court ruled in 2009 that Proposition 8 would remain in effect, preventing additional same-sex marriages from taking place, but not reversing the legally recognized same-sex marriages that had already taken place.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, introduced the Separation Equality Act, AB 2700, sponsored by Equality California and the Conference of California Bar Associations. The bill consolidates the two processes and fees into one for divorcing same-sex spouses and domestic partners. Its other stated goal is to establish language clarifying that same-sex partners married outside of California are able to dissolve their marriages in California.

Many same-sex couples trying to divorce or dissolve their relationships in California would still face a host of other complications, even with the passage of the Separation Equity Act.

“The complexity is 100 percent about legal discrimination,”  said divorce attorney Deborah Wald, referring to the complexity and expense of resolving tax laws associated with same-sex dissolutions. In addition to the tax complications, Wald said the legal aspects of family dissolution are more likely to be complicated by issues of parentage and surrogacy than they are in same-sex marriages.

Proponents of AB 2700 would prefer to see same-sex marriage legalized in California again, and also fully recognized by the federal government. But for now they want to see the bill pass as a temporary solution to help unsnarl same-sex divorce laws in the state.


I literally cried tears of joy when I saw that this passes I've spent almost 7k trying to get a divorce from my wife. I live in GA and I even attempted to file a divorce just using our first initials. I love her always will but we were not meant to be and thank goodness we will no longer be forced to be!

I must share...I have been going through the motions of a Gay Divorce for the past several months...Don't let anyone fool you...unless you X has a lot of integrity you are in for a Royal ...Roller Coaster Ride...I am all for Gay Marriage and also for Gay Divorce...unfortunately marriage and divorce go hand in hand.We are not "created equal" when it comes to gay divorce...I have already spent several thousand dollars in legal fees and am still going through the the time this is all behind me I wonder if there will be any assets left for either one of us?Finding an attorney who is well versed in Gay Divorce is almost impossible...I feel lucky to have found someone who is probably the closest to an expert in this field, however, this is not good news.   Given the laws have so much "gray area" when it comes to gay divorce.It is a shame because like most of us in the GLBT community as well as the straight one gets married with the idea we will end in divorce...We have shared our life for the past 17 plus years and in fact have a child who is now 13...My X I have come to realize is what one would say is a "narcisist" fact I am now convinced of is all about "it is all mine" what if you left your career to raise our child, I worked to earn our living...I pursued my career and you took care of our child and all of the household related day to day stuff... but I can't share with you what I have so hard earned while you were home taking care of our child and our home...Sounds familiar...I have heard every straight husband goes through this...MINE, MINE, different in the GLBT community.   My X is a lesbian who wears the hat of a straight Man.Divorce sucks no matter what...Can hardly wait for this to be over so I can move on with my life and be there for our child 100 percent.Yours truly, a Lesbian who would like to change how our laws need to that gay marriage is being more accepted nationwide we need to be proactive in gay divorce so that it will work the same way it works for the straight folks and this means ...federal recognition not state only.  

Exactly! This is why, sorry to say, I cannot support the gay marriage referendum being presented in Maine this year (yet again). It is so much simpler to utilize existing rules and regs protecting assets through Wills, Trusts, etc. Keep relationships simple as well. Adopt children or have them individually. Do a living will on video to prevent relatives from interfering with your choices if you can no longer make decisions for yourself. Give your partner medical and financial Powers of Attorney for protection. This way we are still able to walk away when or if the need arises, which it does. Imagine this, straight ministers are now admitting that we outgrow relationships of all types and for whatever reason, we no longer need someone in our life whether a parent, friend, lover, child, relative or ...... The legislators of this generation seem to filter all of their decisions through their personal "beliefs", no more separation of church and state, so I'm for cancelling all of it - NO MARRIAGE OR DIVORCE LAWS FOR ANYONE!!! Can you tell I'm from the '60's generation? LOL

It's a good thing that California is getting this divorce thing straightened out, since nearly 100% of gay couples will want to end their relationship at some point (compared to around 50% of heterosexual couples). Oh, the irony...

I'm not sure what you're referring to, Jacob, about this 100% vs 50% thing. I suppose you're trying to say that they'll change their minds because they'll decide that gay relationships are wrong or something. I think you're just trying to make a point that you think the marriages are wrong, but there are no legitimate statistics out there that I'm aware of that even begin to suggest what you're suggesting.

In fact, many of these same sex partners have been committed to each other for upwards of 40 years and their marriages have way more integrity than some of the flash in the pan marriages that celebrities are so well known for. So why badger people who have a right to make their own choices and even their own mistakes?

Maybe if people could marry who they really felt drawn to in the first place, there would be a lot less divorce and fewer shocked and disappointed spouses all around.

Gee, maybe, JUST MAYBE, our State Supreme court should actually have THOUGHT of this BEFORE they stupidly failed to show even the slightest bit of judicial caution and stay the implementation of their decision to allow gay marriage until AFTER the election! This was the perfect example of the courts trying to influence elections and not allow the people to make these decisions for themselves. How much more irresponsible could they possibly have been to NOT take this into consideration? This is just another example of the fallout from their judicial activism. Thanks a lot, she says sarcastically.

Oh, I think it's wonderful that these couples should be allowed to divorce or separate easily. They probably should NEVER have been allowed to have their "relationship" legitmized in the first place! But at least after the 'divorce' they will NEVER be allowed to marry in California again or have their out-of-state marriages recognized should they try that.

It is good that CA is discussing to structure a sensible divorce option for gay marrieds. Just make sure you don't structure it like straight divorce:

Gay folks have suffered enough injustice already. It would be a shame if they start heaping injustice on each other via divorce/kangaroo court shenanigans.

Thanks Ms. Ma! Thanks for watching our backs!