Same Sex Divorce: What Michigan Couples Should Know
In Michigan, both same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce are legal as a result of the United State Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v Hodges on June 26, 2015. Prior to this case, in the family law context, same sex partners were able to enter into contracts to keep or divide property, or otherwise deal with issues relating to entering into a lifetime commitment with one another. Obergerfell effectively overturned the Michigan ban on same-sex marriage, and so not only may gay couples marry and divorce in Michigan, but they can now do so in all 50 states, and all states must recognize a legal marriage performed in another state. Essentially, all couples, regardless of the sex of the partners, may legally marry.
Learn more about the Obergefell case and how same-sex couples previously addressed divorces.
Unfortunately, not all marriages work out, and despite the best efforts of the parties involved, a couple may choose to divorce. As noted above, same-sex divorce is now an option for Michigan couples. The law regarding many issues that arise during a divorce is largely gender neutral; thus, in Michigan, the existing laws can be applied to both straight and gay married couples. We will highlight a few of them below.
The laws relating to the payment and/or receipt of child support in Michigan does not distinguish between husbands or wives, but only parents. As such, there is no reason why the determination of how much child support is received and under what circumstances should vary based on whether the parents are a same-sex or opposite-sex couple.
Child Custody and Parenting Time:
Family court judges take into the consideration what will be in the best interests of the child or children of the marriage when deciding how parenting time will be allocated or the child custody arrangement to be followed. The “Best Interest of the Child” factors analyzed by the court reference “parties” without mention of gender, and focus on the emotional ties existing between the parent and child, capacity of the parents to provide for the child, environmental stability, school and community records of the child, instances of domestic violence, mental and physical health and fitness of the parties, etc. Parenting time decisions are based on a number of statutorily enumerated factors, in addition to what may be in the child’s best interest.
Spousal Support (Alimony):
The factors Michigan family courts consider in making spousal support awards also make reference to “parties,” regardless of gender. Considering factors such as the length of the marriage, the ability of the spouses to work and support themselves, their age, health, and ability to pay spousal support, any determination made by the court should not be different than what courts would have done prior to the legalization of gay marriage.
In determining the division of property during divorce proceedings in Michigan, courts will consider factors relating to the length of the marriage, how each party (gender-neutral) contributed to the marital property estate, what each party needs, and other factors relevant to the court. Similar to the factors described above, the analysis made by the court should not be influenced by whether the property of a straight or gay couple is being divided.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements:
Gay and lesbian couples who are considering marriage should, just like their heterosexual counterparts, consider entering into pre-nuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements to protect their assets and property before marriage. Such agreements are enforceable as long as they are executed properly and fairly applied, and may prove to be helpful when dividing assets should the marriage end in divorce.
Family Lawyers in Lansing, Michigan Committed to Helping ALL Families
The Lansing family law attorneys at the Sinas Dramis Law Firm are committed to serving ALL families in Michigan, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or background. Whether it be through legal representation during divorce, ironing out details related to child custody and support issues, counseling couples considering prenuptial agreements, we are here to help you navigate through the complexities of Michigan family law and the issues that may arise. Contact us today to learn how we may be able to help you.