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Same-Sex Divorce: Know These 3 Things

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP March 11, 2019

You’ve been with your partner for years. You own a home together. Your names are both on the credit cards and family bills. Even before 2014, when you could legally get married in Colorado, you were planning on spending the rest of your lives together.

But now, things have changed. The relationship just isn’t there. Things just don’t feel right. You can almost feel the impending divorce in the air, which naturally brings up even more questions and concerns.

Here are three things you should know about same-sex divorce right from the beginning:

No. 1: Understanding the status of your relationship

Colorado started to recognize same-sex civil unions in 2013 and same-sex marriage in 2014. Some couples chose to keep their civil union, while others may have both a civil union and a marriage.

So what happens when one of you, or both of you, want to move on?

Make no mistake about it, things can get complicated quickly, especially when you have been together for many years with different legal statuses. You will want to have a clear understanding of the laws as they relate to the legal status of your relationship. This is normally why people decide to work with an attorney when getting divorced.

While Colorado started to recognize civil unions in 2013, this was not the case in all states. Keep this in mind when talking to friends and family in similar situations who live in other states. The well-meaning advice they could be giving you may either be inaccurate or outdated for your situation.

No. 2: Property division can turn into a real battle

You may think you know your partner, until it comes time to divide up assets. Who will get the house? What about the art collection you both built together over the years?

All too often, people go into a divorce thinking they will be able to calmly divide up property, but hit a roadblock when one or both people realize this may mean giving up things they want to keep, or being asked to divide assets in a way that doesn’t seem fair.

This is where things can become quite complicated, and where emotions can override logic. While the courts may want to look at assets acquired during the course of the marriage, this may not necessarily be fair and equitable in cases where a couple was together for 10-plus years waiting until same-sex marriage was legal.  Another added complication is that Colorado recognizes common-law marriage, which enables an argument for a third potential date of marriage.

No. 3: Spousal maintenance is a real thing. Understand it.

Alimony. Spousal support. Spousal maintenance. These are all the same thing, in Colorado courts use the term “spousal maintenance.”

In simple terms: spousal maintenance is when one spouse makes payments to the other after the marriage ends. The amount and term of maintenance is dependent on factors like the length of the marriage, how assets are divided, and each person’s earning potential.

Staying level-headed

There are no two ways about it, divorce is emotionally challenging. You will have your good days and your bad days. There will be times when it feels easy, and times when it feels like it is all too much.

What you want to avoid is making decisions based solely on emotions. Rather, you want to make sure the decisions and requests you make today with the help of a Boulder family law attorney are ones that will best set you up for the future.