LGBT divorce or dissolution of civil unions or domestic partnerships in New Jersey:
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 divorce and dissolution may require special skill and knowledge in interpreting and applying the law concerning parenting, property division and partner support.
The 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.
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. Many couples are able to resolve issues quickly and pursue an uncontested divorce. Others in their same-sex divorce may wish to pursue mediation to address one or more issues. Still others will have more serious disagreements and will find themselves in a contested divorce.
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. This means that partners pursuing same-sex divorce 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 the same process as divorcing couples, including filing a complaint for dissolution and a case information statement, participating in case management conferences, and sometimes engaging in formal discovery.
New Jersey civil union couples have all the same state legal rights and benefits as married couples and will therefore face the same types of issues when ending a relationship. Domestic partners share fewer legal rights and may therefore face fewer issues, but the procedure is still the same.
For more information about forms of legal intimate partnership in New Jersey, see: New Jersey Same-Sex Relationships: Marriages, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships.
Common Issues for Couples Ending Same-Sex Relationships
Property Division and Alimony
For partners divorcing or ending a civil union, the rules governing equitable distribution of marital property and alimony (spousal support) are the same. As is true in any divorce, the terms of a valid prenuptial (or pre-civil union) or postnuptial (or post-civil union) agreement may impact such issues. Because entering into a domestic partnership does not create the same kinds of shared property rights or shared responsibility for debts, and does not give rise to a claim for alimony if the relationship ends, equitable distribution and alimony are not usually a consideration for partners ending a domestic partnership. Domestic partners often enter into cohabitation agreements that may impact post-relationship property rights or partner support.
One issue that may confront partners who lived together as a committed couple for many years and then entered into a civil union or marriage at the 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 family law attorneys will make the strongest possible argument in support of your individual needs.
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 or adopted child 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 some 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.
For more information, on parenting issues in same-sex relationships see:
Parental Rights in Assisted Reproduction
Psychological Parenting Doctrine in New Jersey
Ending a Civil Union or Domestic Partnership Out-of-State
Several states besides New Jersey recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships, although many other states do not. Even among states that do recognize such partnerships there is a lack of uniformity. These circumstances could result in New Jersey civil union and domestic partnership couples having difficulty in ending their relationships out-of-state. If this is a concern for you, contact a New Jersey family law attorney for additional information.
If you are seeking to same-sex divorce, or wish to dissolve a 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.
Contact us to schedule your free initial consultation. Secure your future. Take the first step today. Call: 888-888-0919.