As California residents know, there many complexities to divorce. Some examples include determinations of division of assets, spousal support and child custody, to name only a few. Thankfully, the law in California and in most states sets forth relatively clear guidelines as to how separating couples should answer these questions in the event of disagreement. Further, the government recognizes that divorce can affect an individual financially in a special way. For example, alimony payments mean the movement of one spouse’s income to the other’s. For federal income tax purposes, the law permits the paying spouse to take a deduction for the amount of money paid out in alimony in order to avoid being taxed on income of which he or she never received the benefit. However, due to certain laws, same sex couples do not receive this same assistance.
The Defendant of Marriage Act, legalized by the United States legislature some time ago, refuses to recognize the marriage rights of same-sex couples. This stance on marriage also effects same-sex couples in divorce, as just indicated via the tax on alimony example. Even living in a state like California, where same-sex marriage is legally recognized, same-sex couples still do not enjoy the federal benefits available to heterosexual married and divorced couples, due to DOMA.
However, the United States Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear two same-sex marriage cases. One of these cases is the famous Proposition Eight case, heard in the state of California. The US Supreme Court’s decision in this case could mean that the states and the federal government are no longer permitted to discriminate against same-sex couples in marriage and divorce rights.
The Roberts Court is a difficult court to read however, issuing a favorable ruling on the Affordable Care Act, which many would term a left leaning ruling while also granting corporations the rights of citizens in Citizen’s United, an of termed right leaning ruling. How the court will determine the Proposition Eight case is thus quite a mystery at this time. Whatever their decision, it will certainly have an impact on divorce rights for years to come.
Source: Slate Magazine, “The Civil Rights Case of Our Generation,” Emily Bazelon, Dec. 7, 2012.