Dissolution of Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships and Same-sex Divorce
New Jersey (NJ) LGBT Divorce and Dissolution Attorneys
The end of a relationship that both partners once fully expected would last a lifetime can be traumatic and often presents immediate practical issues concerning financial support or care of children. While the same types of issues confront all couples ending relationships, resolving the issues in a same-sex relationship often requires special skill and knowledge in interpreting and applying the law concerning parenting, property division and partner support.
The New Jersey family law attorneys at Weinberger Law Group will provide calm and compassionate assistance in this often turbulent time. We are dedicated to supporting the legal relationship rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender) individuals and couples, and we are experienced in handling all aspects of terminating same-sex relationships, regardless of the legal form of the relationship or the state in which it was formalized. Whether your relationship is a same-sex marriage, a civil union or a domestic partnership, we can guide you through the appropriate process.
Common issues in all terminations include:
- Choosing grounds
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Partner support (spousal maintenance, or alimony)
- Defining property rights
Divorce for Same-Sex Marriages
New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage in October of 2013. For a detailed time-line showing the development of same-sex marriage in New Jersey, see: Status of Same-Sex Marriage in New Jersey.
Same-sex married couples ending a relationship will now go through divorce, following the same divorce process as opposite-sex married couples. Every divorce is different, however, and same-sex married couples may face more complex issues than many opposite-sex couples. New Jersey couples already in civil unions or domestic partnerships can now marry their current legal partners without first terminating their existing civil union or domestic partnership. Pending any future legislative changes, a prior relationship which has not first been terminated will remain intact following the marriage. This means that partners ending a marriage may also have to end an underlying civil union or domestic partnership.
Dissolution of a Civil Union or Domestic Partnership
New Jersey began recognizing registered domestic partnerships with limited rights in 2004 and civil unions in 2007. Couples ending a civil union or domestic partnership follow essentially the same process as a divorce, including filing a complaint for dissolution and a case information statement, participating in case management conferences, and possibly engaging in discovery.
There are very few differences between a divorce and dissolution of a civil union, although the exact issues will depend on the circumstances of each case. Terminating a domestic partnership tends to involve fewer legal issues, but the procedure is still the same. This required formality sometimes comes as a surprise to partners who believed that their domestic partnership was a relatively informal relationship.
Grounds for Dissolution
A partner filing a complaint for dissolution of a civil union or termination of a domestic partnership can use most of the same grounds available in divorce , including adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, separation, and a few other rarely used grounds. The one exception is that while irreconcilable differences is an acceptable ground in a divorce, it is not one of the allowable grounds for terminating a civil union or domestic partnership.
Property Division and Alimony
Entering into a domestic partnership does not create the same kinds of shared property rights or shared responsibility for debts as a marriage or a civil union. For this reason, equitable distribution and alimony are not usually a consideration for partners ending a domestic partnership. For partners ending a civil union, the rules governing equitable property division and alimony are the same as the rules in a divorce, but such couples often face slightly different issues.
One issue commonly confronting partners who lived together as a committed couple for many years and then entered into a civil union at their earliest opportunity is whether or not a court will treat their union the same way it would treat a long-term marriage for purposes of equitable property division and alimony. The law is still evolving in this area and there is no single right or wrong answer to this question. You can be assured, however, that our knowledgeable New Jersey civil union and domestic partnership attorneys will make the strongest possible argument in support of your individual needs.
Other financial and property issues unique to same-sex relationships relate to federal taxes and benefits. Couples in civil unions and domestic partnership are not treated as married for federal tax purposes and are not eligible for federal benefits based on marriage, such as derivative social security benefits.
Child Custody, Visitation and Support
Child custody and child support laws apply to all parents. However, same-sex couples with children confront certain issues on a more frequent basis. For example, many same-sex couples have adopted children or have children who are the biological offspring of only one partner. In some situations, a same-sex partner who is not a child's biological or adoptive parent, but has acted as the child's parent in a family relationship, may still have parental rights. This is a complex area of law. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to protect your relationship with your child and maximize your parental rights.
The New Jersey family law attorneys at Weinberger Law Group, LLC will discuss all aspects of your case and fully inform you of your rights, responsibilities, and options. We will offer you advice and suggestions for an amicable settlement, and if necessary, will also vigorously advocate on your behalf at court to ensure that your rights are fully protected.
For more information, see: New Jersey Same-Sex Relationships: Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships
If you are seeking to end a same-sex marriage, civil union or domestic partnership, or if you believe that your partner may be seeking to end your relationship, our New Jersey family law attorneys can guide you through the process and answer all of your questions, so that you are better able to make positive decisions for yourself and your family during this difficult transition.
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