About ten years ago, a same-sex couple married on the first day that the state of Massachusetts allowed for legalized same-sex weddings. According to a report in the L.A. Times, the women relocated to Pennsylvania with their one-year-old daughter to finish school and start a business. When their happy ending ended in a decision to divorce, the couple found themselves unable to do so because the state of Pennsylvania did not recognize their marriage. Without that recognition, the state refused to allow them to engage in the divorce process, even though Massachusetts legally recognized them as a married couple. According to the report, going through the Massachusetts courts was not an option, because neither spouse was a resident of the state any longer. Relocation and established residency are required before a divorce action is commenced. The couple decided to stay married and live separate lives, while hoping for a change in the Pennsylvania laws.
After more than five years of waiting, that change came earlier this week when a federal judge found Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The next day Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced that he would not seek to overturn the ruling, paving the way for same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.
This situation is reportedly a common one among the gay community. The variation of state laws create a situation where same-sex marriages are treated vastly different depending on the jurisdiction. Within the last year, New Jersey and Delaware legalized same-sex marriage, but this was of no assistance to the married couple in the article, even though they resided in a neighboring state. Federally, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed same-sex married couples to claim federal benefits. The United States Treasury Department also weighed in on the controversial debate, by allowing the couples to file joint tax returns.
According to the report, Delaware, Vermont and Maryland waive the residency requirement for same-sex married couples who want to file for divorce in their jurisdictions. The states of Wyoming and Colorado do not allow same-sex marriages. However, the legislatures adopted laws to allow for divorces of same-sex couples married elsewhere.
Divorce in Massachusetts
The state of Massachusetts requires one-year of residency for a divorce, or the grounds for divorce must occur within the state. The possible grounds for divorce include:
- Adultery on the part of one or both spouses;
- Desertion of spouse that has been continuous for at least one year;
- Cruel and abusive punishment;
- Habitual, voluntary drunkenness or intoxication; and
- Cruel and wanton refusal to provide financial support.
Massachusetts also recognizes a no-fault grounds for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, without no fault being placed on either party.
Regardless of the grounds claimed, a collaborative divorce can assist in making the process more amicable and lessen the amount of court involvement. In a collaborative setting, the spouses voluntarily work with a neutral third party to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.
The Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC can assist you and your spouse with a collaborative divorce settlement. Call the office today at (781)285-8989 for a consultation.