Family Law and Gay Marriage

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Family Law Gay MarriageAs a family law attorney it is significant that gay marriage is now federally recognized and is legal in 35 states, including Arizona. It has been nearly six months since U.S. District Judge John Sedwick struck down Arizona’s prohibition on same sex marriage as unconstitutional. Since that time, many same sex couples have become legally married in Arizona. Despite the dire warnings of those opposed to same sex marriage, our underlying social fabric seems to still be intact.

Judge Sedwick’s order, however, allows for equal treatment under the law in other areas as well. Many couples who were previously legally married in other states but moved to states which did not recognize their unions found themselves unable to legally obtain a divorce. In Texas, a couple legally married in another state was denied driver’s licenses because the state did not recognize their marriage, and thus one spouses name change was illegal.

Arizona will likely see a steady increase in the number of same-sex divorces. For the most part, Arizona family law is gender-neutral, so there are few statutory problems with two spouses of the same gender. Same sex couples now have the same right as everyone else to argue over property, spousal maintenance, and whether or not their pre-nuptial agreement is valid.

Same sex couples now have easier access to adoption. Although there was no prohibition on same sex adoption previously, Arizona law explicitly favors adoptions by married couples. Sometime last year I had the displeasure of informing a committed lesbian couple that they would be likely overlooked in a contested adoption proceeding due to their inability to be married.

None of the above statements mean that the law around same-sex relationships is perfectly settled. There are numerous other issues which we only be resolved through further legislation and litigation. Although the legal system is often a step behind, it is also the mechanism for social progress. If you or someone you know is in need of legal assistance, contact one of the family law attorney’s at Rowley Chapman & Barney at 480-833-1113.


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