Same-sex couples have won the right to marry in thirteen states and major legislative victories after the Supreme Court’s overruling of much of DOMA in June. However, there are still many battles left to be fought in the fight to secure same-sex marriage, including the right to divorce.
As reported by Today, Margaret Wenig is an influential author and rabbi in New York City. In 1996 she registered a domestic partnership and in 2008, after New York allowed same-sex unions, married her partner. However, earlier this year and after 17 years of living together as married if only in their minds, the couple wanted a divorce.
Although the couple’s relationship became detached, their finances were anything but separate. The couple remained intertwined in each other’s assets, health care and finances. Because of the unclear and evolving legislative status of same-sex couples, filing for a divorce becomes a bitter and confusing legal battle.
“Our divorce has not only been an emotional and financial nightmare for us, but for our adult children and members of our extended family as well,” Wenig said.
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Carolyn Satenburg, a family attorney based in New York, sees many cases like this. In her estimation, a heterosexual divorce in New York typically costs about $10,000. Wenig reports her divorce cost her more than $120,000.
The cost of same-sex divorces might be unavoidable. Most of the cost of the divorces arises from legal fees and same-sex couples introduce complicated legal circumstances. For example, the custody of adopted children is difficult between heterosexual couples too but more common proportionately among homosexual couples. The situation becomes increasingly complicated when only one spouse is the biological parent.