By “Dad X”
The LGBT community has fought for marriage equality for years, decades, probably forever. The Supreme Court ruling will now be fought against by certain states, towns, cities and individual magistrates. On the LGBT side, there will be attorneys carrying on the fight.
Of course, with the joy of freedom and citizen responsibility of marriage finally extended to all citizens, comes a price – divorce.
It’s long been known that too often men get the short end of divorce from biased judges basing their decisions on re-runs of Leave it to Beaver. So how will these “family values of the 1950s” judges treat same-sex couples? What will happen when it’s dad vs. dad and mom vs. mom?
Are Gay Couples Really Any Different?
According to a report from The William’s Institute, an LGBT policy and research think tank housed at the University of California, Los Angeles’s School of Law:
Those same-sex couples who did marry were also less likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, the researchers discovered. The average divorce rate for same-sex couples was just 1.1 percent annually, compared to an annual average of 2 percent divorce rate for heterosexual couples. When data sets were expanded to include dissolutions by same-sex couples in any type of legally recognized relationship (including civil unions and domestic partnerships), the rate increased to 1.6 percent annually — still lower than the average rate of heterosexual divorces.
Of course, with marriage equality being so young, give these couples time to get really sick of each other and end up in divorce court. If gays and straights are equal and possess the same feelings, values and desires to have families, it’s only a matter of time before the 50/50 marriage/divorce percent is hit.
When children are added into the union, as with straight divorcing couples, expect things to get nasty – because people are people!
Welcome to Court!
Gay or straight, couples will fight over the children, furniture, cars, IRAs, support figures and pets. Again, nothing out of the ordinary.
The big question is: What can gay couples expect from family court judges? If you think the law protects all parties, you’ve never experienced family court.
Firstly, gay couples with children apparently face several questions that aren’t asked of straight couples. Questions about adoption, sperm and egg donors, is there a third party (straight man or woman surrogate/donor with visitation rights, etc.
As many straight couples are told, it’s best to avoid the courts completely. It’s probably even more important for lesbians and gay men to not be subject to the opinions and discretion of the court, and to avoid litigation through the courts, where most judges will no doubt struggle to grasp the specific circumstances of the case.
This still doesn’t change the need for the same legalities that gives same-sex couples the right to be married.
Face Certain Realities
Sure, there are the bakers who refuse to make cakes for gay weddings and states where judges are refusing to abide by marriage equality, so is it a shock that a judge might not rule fairly, by the law of that state?
I’m a straight man and when I first got divorced, my attorney looked at the judge my case was assigned and laughed. She insisted we’d have to switch judges as the one assigned “gives women everything.”
Watching the judge we ended up with, who was described as “fair… most of the time,” smile and flirt with my wife and then turn to me with utter contempt in his eyes was frightening. Perhaps it was more frightening that this judge was considered far fairer than the first one assigned.
But all of this just proves that LGBT couples with children shouldn’t expect any better treatment than they’ve received. People will get angry, feelings will be hurt, lies will be told and someone is not going to get what they want. Along with all of this, the system that will be making the final decision will add plenty of ire to both sides.
If gay and lesbian couples can work together through mediation and remain happy and able to work together like mature adults who have accepted the separation and all that surrounds it, then congratulations because you’ve shown a class that straight couples rarely ever can achieve.
Protect Your Rights
The Supreme Court has upheld marriage equality, yet it will still be an uphill battle for same-sex couples within some states. It was not the LGBT community voice that brought this to the SCOTUS but attorneys for the cause, and any LGBT couple going to court should have strong legal representation. Attorneys, gay or straight, are not fans of judges that interpret the law wrongly or treat their clients with disrespect.
An attorney knows the law and how to work within it and anyone in the LGBT community will need a knowledgeable, professional voice in court. Unfortunately, as with the fight for marriage equality, you may need to appeal a wrong decision up to the Supreme Court of the United States if necessary.
There are many great pieces of literature for the layperson about divorce laws. Some are available from your state family court website. You can also find numerous resources here at DadsDivorce.com.
Check back on the first of every month for the next column, outlining the mistakes I’ve made and how to best work with your attorney for success and, most of all, a better life for you and your children.
To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men, contact Cordell & Cordell.