After the New York State Senate recently voted to approve the same-sex marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, same-sex couples across the state celebrated their newfound right to marry. One additional benefit of the new legislation that many of those couples might have over looked is the fact that after the state recognizes same-sex marriage, it will also recognize same-sex divorce and the right to divorce for same-sex couples will be governed by the rules according to New York’s Domestic Relations Law just like heterosexual unions have enjoyed for some time.
Although studies have shown the divorce rate for same-sex marriages is about the same as it is for opposite-sex marriages, the right to get divorced for same-sex couples in the state in the past had been governed by a patchwork of various lower court rulings and individual judges’ decisions in those cases.
Same-sex divorce was first recognized in New York back in 2008 when an appeals court ruled that a same-sex couple married in Canada could get divorced in New York for the purposes of legally dissolving their union. However, until now, there had been no single set of rules governing same-sex divorce in the state and since each case was handled differently, the outcomes could be unpredictable. Recognition of same-sex marriage rights will now result in a more standardized system for same-sex divorce and should also provide standardization of the divorce procedure and make things a lot easier for everyone involved.
Same-sex couples married in New York who change their minds about their marriages should be protected under the laws if they remain in New York, but those that move to one of 30 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, there are no guarantees their New York marriage will be recognized and getting a divorce could be tricky. A few state courts have ruled there is a right to get a divorce even without the right to marry, but in many of the non-same-sex marriage states the courts say they lack the authority to grant divorces since they lack the ability to perform same-sex marriages.