In Georgia, the process for a same-sex divorce works just like divorce for heterosexual couples. The same issues of whether a divorce will be contested or uncontested, the ability to have access to mediation, the right for a legal separation, and more, now apply equally to all married couples. But here are three topics to review that are unique to same-sex divorces:
- Alimony Calculation Confusion. Alimony is typically based on a historical track record of how long one has been married and how long one person may be in a “dependent” situation with their spouse. But if you were married in a state that legalized same-sex marriage PRIOR to when Georgia did, it is still not clear if that “history” starts at the time you were married in the other state, or when Georgia recognized same-sex marriage. While we wait to see how this plays out in the courts, a good rule of thumb is to keep logs or journals of activities and don’t throw out those old bank statements, tax documents and receipts. The key is to make a case that you were in a dependent situation for X amount of time and therefore need Y amount of support going forward.
- Child Custody is still in question. While the legal standard is the “best interest of the children,” there may be favor toward a biological parent receiving custody in a same-sex divorce. The counties in Georgia vary widely on how conservative or not they are, and your attorney will help guide you through the best strategy for presenting your custody case based on your exact circumstances and location.
- Complex Asset Division. Assets may have been co-mingled long before Georgia legalized marriage, making their separation at divorce more complex. It is not uncommon to hear of a same-sex couple having cohabitated for years and therefore mingled their property, co-signed leases, or opened joint bank accounts long before Georgia legalized marriage. So when you try to determine what assets accumulated during the marriage to be divided, it may be a “snapshot” in time to what assets looked like at the time of the marriage, not the time you first cohabitated. This could greatly affect the “equitable distribution of assets” normally aimed for in a divorce. Having a skilled family law attorney who not only knows the legal details, but who is also savvy in financial matters will greatly enhance your chances of a positive outcome.
It remains to be seen in the long run how the Georgia legal system will evolve to clarify these topics, but for now, having an attorney like Scott Shaw, who has been handling same-sex partner legal cases for many years before Georgia got around to legalizing marriage, will certainly give you an edge in settlement discussions or if a trial is necessary.
If you have questions about your rights or how the Georgia law affects your situation, please contact us.
Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm PC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.