A Texas judge has denied a divorce petition from two women who married legally four years ago in New Hampshire. Texas lawmakers have banned gay marriage in the state, and the Tarrant County judge told the women that the court did not have jurisdiction required to consider a divorce petition from a couple in a same-sex marriage.
A divorce offers the parties certain advantages, benefits and protections. It provides a legal framework for the couple to resolve important matters such as the division of marital assets and the payment of spousal support. A divorce agreement could also specify the terms of child custody and visitation. Divorce may also allow former spouses to retain health care benefits and Social Security advantages.
With the possibility of a divorce seeming unlikely, one of the women elected to pursue another option. She petitioned the court to have the marriage declared void. However, the judge ruled that the court did not have the necessary jurisdiction to grant this petition either. An attorney representing one of the women said that the ruling would be appealed. If the appellate court also rules against the women, they may have to move back to New Hampshire for a minimum of six months in order to legally divorce.
This case highlights the complex web of state and federal laws regarding same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. While same-sex marriage may not be legal in Texas, an attorney with family law experience may still be able to help those in a domestic partnership to establish child custody, visitation and property rights. Another option for same-sex couples is a cohabitation agreement. Such an agreement works in a similar way as a prenuptial agreement, and it could specify how a couple's assets are to be divided as well as provide a framework for other matters such as support payments.
Source: KDFW FOX 4, "Tarrant County judge won’t allow same-sex couple’s divorce", myfoxdfw.com Staff, September 19, 2014