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Ending a marriage for gay and lesbian couples

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act, parties interested in same-sex marriage in Colorado and across the nation are still looking at the impact that the decision will have on divorce. The DOMA ruling should make divorce easier for same-sex couples who want to split up. Experts speculate that even states that don't recognize same-sex unions will begin changing their attitudes about same-sex marriage.

When couples split up, whether gay or straight, they usually begin to separate their property. One party may keep the home while finances are divided. When DOMA was law, tax exemptions didn't apply to gay or lesbian couples, which meant they had to pay taxes, especially if they had a high net worth. Even couples who didn't have a high net worth could be taxed on alimony.

Federal benefits apply to same-sex couples, which means that they won't need to pay taxes on the transfer of property or retirement accounts if they divorce. However, it's still uncertain how the ruling will impact couples who don't live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. If a same-sex couple in a civil union splits up, they will probably not receive these tax benefits and may need to shoulder unfair financial burdens. Same-sex couples shouldn't get caught up in the excitement of their new found legal rights but should be certain of their willingness to marry. Rushing into marriage could mean that some of these same couples will be divorcing.

When a same-sex couple ends their union, they could be confused about their legal rights, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June as it struck down DOMA. A family attorney might be able to help couples negotiate the divorce process.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The New World of Same-Sex Divorce", Frederick Hertz, July 17, 2013

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