Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce
In New Jersey and across the country, the law on recognition of same-sex relationships has been evolving rapidly.
Since October 2013, same-sex marriage has been legal in New Jersey. In addition, for nearly a decade before that, New Jersey had other, partial forms of recognition — first in the form of domestic partnerships, then, in 2007, civil unions.
But neither domestic partnership nor civil unions offered the same array of rights and benefits for spouses that marriage has long allowed to heterosexual couples. These protections include practical things like inheritance rights and tax considerations, as well as the more intangible but symbolically important public acknowledgement that all marriages — gay or lesbian, straight or not straight — are equal in the eyes of the law.
Our Law Firm’s Commitment To Asserting The Rights Of Same-Sex Couples
At Puccio & Fiorello LLC, we are committed to helping people in same-sex relationships get the legal protections they are entitled to. From our office in Wayne, our attorneys serve clients throughout Passaic County.
Our firm has long been known for its personal attention to clients’ needs. This personal attention can be particularly important in cases involving same-sex relationships, because swiftly evolving social and legal standards have left many gay and lesbian people wondering where they stand.
How New Jersey (And Federal) Law Has Changed
Passionate debate about the recognition of same-sex relationships goes back nearly two decades now. In 1996, fearing that Hawaii and other states would legalize marriage between same-sex couples, Congress padded a law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This law sought to withhold recognition from same-sex marriages that were validly entered into under state law.
It was not until 2013 that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the key section of DOMA. The Supreme Court’s action came in a case called U.S. v. Windsor that involved the inability of a long-time lesbian partner who was married under state law to benefit from estate tax benefits granted to spouses under federal law.
The Windsor case played a role in the court decision in New Jersey that ended up legalizing same-sex marriages here. In a New Jersey case called Garden State Equality v. Dow, the court concluded that under the reasoning of Windsor, New Jersey was required to allow same-sex couples to get married.
This was required, the court reasoned, because although New Jersey offered a form of recognition for same-sex couples called civil unions, those unions did not have recognition under federal law. The court in Garden State also referred back to a 2006 decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court that held the state must extend marital rights and benefits to same-sex couples. This led to the recognition of civil unions, but it would be another seven years before New Jersey became the 14th state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage.
There are many ways in which the high-level social and constitutional considerations involved in the recognition of same-sex relationships take practical form. One of those, of course, is the simple fact that same-sex marriage goes hand-in-hand with the possibility of same-sex divorce. Our lawyers have the experience and dedication to help you navigate the end of your marriage, no matter what gender you and the partner you are splitting with happen to be.
Other issues besides divorce involving same-sex relationships could include:
- Inheritance taxes
- Social Security survivor’s benefits
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – the right under federal law to leave work for a period of time to care for a family member
- Other federal benefits
Our Firm’s Commitment
No matter what your specific issue is, we have the experience and knowledge of New Jersey law to help you. Our attorneys have more than 50 years of combined experience and a clear commitment to serving each client with respect and effective action.
Of course, the actions we take on your behalf will depend on the facts of your specific case. That is why we offer a free initial consultation, so you can explain your unique situation to us and we can respond with compassion and well-considered counsel.