Change In Minnesota Law Helps Same-Sex Couples Divorce

On August 1, 2013, Minnesota law changed so that the state recognizes same-sex couples' marriages. Many championed the change to the law as a major advancement in recognizing the civil rights of gay people in Minnesota. Some were excited because they could finally have all of the legal advantages that married couples have. Others greeted the new law with enthusiasm not because they could finally marry, but because they could finally divorce.

Courts Could Not Grant Divorces

Some same-sex couples living in Minnesota had gotten married in other states that recognized same-sex marriages or in Canada prior to the state changing its laws. When those marriages did not work out, the couples had very few options to end their marriages. Minnesota courts could not grant divorces because the state did not recognize that the couples were legally married.

Couples could try to go back to the state or country that granted the marriage to obtain divorce, but many states and Canada have laws that require that people to be residents of the state for certain periods of time before the court has jurisdiction to grant a divorce. One of the spouses would have to relocate to the state, which many are unwilling or unable to do.

Change In Law Addressed Divorce

When drafting the legislation that changed the marriage laws in the state, Minnesota lawmakers also addressed divorce. Legislators included a provision that allowed couples who marry in Minnesota and then move to a jurisdiction that did not recognize their marriages to file for divorce in Minnesota without having to re-establish residency.

Gay rights advocates note that binding people in marriages in which they do not want to be can have serious consequences. If a spouse goes to a state that recognizes same-sex marriages, his or her estranged spouse has decision-making authority over important matters such as property, children and health care decisions. People also cannot move on with their lives and marry new partners if they wish when trapped in failed marriages.

Lawmakers note that the state's divorce statute is neutral regarding divorce, so courts should not need to handle same-sex divorces any differently than opposite-sex divorces. According to CNN Money, divorces for gay couples often cost far more than divorces for straight couples because the courts are unsure of how to proceed and request more briefs from attorneys — resulting in higher attorney fees. Minnesota couples should not incur these extra costs.

Talk To An Attorney

If you are in a failing marriage, whether homosexual or heterosexual, contact us to speak with a skilled divorce attorney who can help you through the divorce process and look out for your best interests during the matter.