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Divorce can be difficult for same-sex couples

Though same-sex marriage is still illegal in 37 states in the U.S., many committed Colorado couples travel to states that allow gay couples to exchange their vows. These marriages are legally binding and must be dissolved through divorce or annulment. A problem sometimes arises when a same-sex couple who lives in one of the states that does not recognize gay marriage wants to end their relationship.

In most jurisdictions, a couple can get married whether they live in the state or not. This is not usually the case for divorce. Couples who want to legally end their marriage generally must file in the county where they reside. States that do not recognize gay marriage may refuse to accept a divorce petition from a same-sex couple.

Though same-sex couples who are legally married are afforded federal benefits and a more favorable tax status, some couples who want to get married are unable to afford the trip to another state for the ceremony. Another disparity arises when same-sex couples whose home state does not recognize their marriage apply for Social Security benefits. The current Social Security Administration policies consider the laws in the states where a couple resides, not where the marriage was officiated.

Same-sex married couples sometimes experience problems accessing the benefits that they are now entitled to by federal law. Because legal documentation is one way to protect the rights of a same-sex couple in states that ban gay marriage, an attorney who has experience with same-sex partnerships may be able to help couples prepare documents pertaining to their domestic partnership agreement or advance health care directives.

Source: Huffington Post, "Hidden costs of federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples", Deborah Widiss, September 05, 2013

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