While the general processes for divorce in a same-sex marriage are the same as a heterosexual divorce, there is one big difference that can make an impact: history. With the changing laws in recent years concerning same-sex marriage, many couples looking to separate have to deal with things differently.

Marriage before legalization

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage for same-sex couples would be legal. However, many couples had been living as a married couple for years and even decades before the ruling.

In divorce, much of the rulings are made based on the beginning of the marriage. Many couples lived as if they were married before it was legally recognized, though. So, a couple could have been in a committed relationship and been living together for 20 years but the state may only recognize five years of marriage. This can severely impact the separation of property, assets and alimony.

Custody and legal parents

Custody issues can be more complicated in a same-sex relationship as well. Due to a historical lack of marriage rights until recent years, couples who want children have often not been able to do so together. Often, a child is adopted by or born of one party. Some couples pursue second-parent adoption, where the party not biologically related to the child adopts them and both parents have equal rights.

However, if the couple didn’t go through with second-parent adoption, only one party may be legally recognized, even if both are active parents. This will complicate child custody and visitation issues significantly.

While same-sex divorce can be complicated, it’s possible. Working with a lawyer that you trust and is experienced in this area will help you ensure that the separation is fair.