The laws of states throughout the country today are rapidly changing with regard to same-sex marriage. As more states allow gay couples to legally marry, the question of same-sex divorce is also becoming a challenging family law issue. Given a number of actions currently working their way through state and federal courts, same-sex couples in Texas may be waiting some time before any clarity is reached on the issues of same-sex marriage and divorce.
One federal judge in Texas, for example, has ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The state has appealed, however, and it could be months before the case is heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Depending on the appellate ruling, the case could even go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other federal court cases involving same-sex marriage are based in Austin.
A number of same-sex divorce cases are also moving through Texas state courts. A case at the Texas Supreme Court involves a same-sex couple in Dallas. While the court may rule before the summer recess, it doesn’t have to, notes the couple’s attorney. There is no deadline for the court to issue a ruling and in the past it has taken as long as four years in reviewing a complicated case.
A possible delay like this is particularly concerning in that couples residing in Texas have no choice but to file for divorce in Texas. The longer the court spends reviewing the issue, the longer the backlog of same-sex couples seeking divorce will grow.
Challenges, delays and contradictory rulings are, in some ways, a fact of life in our legal system. But family law issues are unique in that they involve the parties’ intimate relationships with their partners, as well as their relationships as parents to their children. Couples will need legal representation that can empathize with their concerns and understand their perspectives in order to advocate effective on their behalf.
Source: Dallas Voice, “Texas marriage cases stall in state, federal courts,” Anna Waugh, May 30, 2014