Any person, whether he or she is in a same-sex relationship or an opposite-sex relationship, should see a Virginia divorce lawyer in order to have a good working knowledge of what to expect during the divorce process.
However, it is critically important for same-sex couples who are becoming separated and/or divorced to seek the advice of a Virginia same-sex divorce lawyer because same-sex marriage laws are incredibly state-specific. For example, if a couple had a civil union or commitment ceremony in a state other than Virginia, it is possible that a Virginia court could look at that marital state and decide that the marriage started at the time of the civil union, rather than at the time of a subsequent marriage in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The individualized nature of same-sex marriage laws has a considerable impact on the manner in which a court determines the length of a marriage, what constitutes marital assets, and how marital assets will be allocated between the parties. Due to the nature of the laws that govern same-sex marriages in separate states, it is of considerable importance that any person in a same-sex marriage who is considering a divorce or separation contact a Virginia same-sex divorce lawyer in order to understand the full extent of his or her rights.
Benefits of Pre & Post-Nuptial Agreements
Pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements can both be used to eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the beginning of a same-sex couple’s marital period. Due to the varied state laws regarding marriage and commitment between same-sex parties, such agreements can play a significant clarifying role.
A pre-nuptial agreement can be used, for example, to define the worth of marital assets based on a particular date, such as the date of a Virginia marriage ceremony or the date of a civil union in another state. In this way, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements can be used to lend definition to areas that might otherwise be complicated and not entirely clear. Such definition is incredibly important in Virginia, as, currently, Virginia case law does not prescribe a set of rules regarding the manner in which same-sex divorce proceedings must proceed.
Complications of Long-Term Cohabitation
Many same-sex couples began their relationships and commitment to each other long before the recognition of same-sex marriage in Virginia. Thus, the law of equitable distribution in Virginia, which is what the court uses to divide marital property, might not be applicable for the entire period of time that a same-sex couple was functioning as a married couple in a financial sense.
Under such circumstances, a court may only divide property from the date of a Virginia marriage, rather from the date upon which the couple began contributing to joint financial endeavors. In this way, the manner in which Virginia courts consider the beginning point of a same-sex couple’s marriage can have a considerable impact on property settlement during that couple’s divorce or separation.
In same-sex relationships involving children, no more than one parent is a child’s biological parent. This is an important issue in Virginia, as Virginia law has not historically recognized any relationship between a non-biological and non-legal parent and a child.
For example, consider a situation in which a same-sex couple wants to have a child and one parent is a biological parent of that child. If the other person in that relationship does not legally adopt the child, he or she is neither a biological nor legal parent of that child. Under such circumstances, it can be very difficult for that parent to assert any right to custody.
Thus, not only is it important for separating parents in same-sex relationships to seek legal counsel when they are dealing with custody and visitation, it is also critical for a same-sex couple at the beginning stages of conceiving or adopting a child to seek legal counsel in terms of how to approach each parent’s legal right to that child.
Importance of an Attorney
An attorney who has experience working with same-sex divorce issues will have considerable background in the legal aspects of same-sex divorces and the problems that may arise. Moreover, a same-sex divorce attorney in Virginia that has handled cases involving non-traditional family units, will have a better understanding of the family dynamics.
Under any circumstances in which an individual is considering hiring an attorney, it is of primary importance that he or she select an attorney with whom he or she feels most comfortable. An experienced Virginia same-sex divorce lawyer is best-positioned to provide that comfort in a process that is lengthy, complicated, and taxing.