Because same-sex marriage was illegal in most of the United States before 2015, divorces between same-sex were virtually unheard of until then. As of June 2015, it is now legalized in every state and couples of the same sex are coming forward after holding onto divorce papers for years. Many of these couples married illegally (out of the country or in a legalized state before it was legalized in their state) and had trouble getting a divorce because it was difficult to do so without a lot of questions and trouble surrounding it. If a same-sex couple got married in a legalized state, but moved to another state that did not recognize same-sex marriage as legal, they were not allowed to get a divorce.
Previous Rules for Divorce
Before legalization included all states in 2015, same-sex couples were allowed to get divorced in the state that they married in, but a lot of problems arose from this. The majority of states require same-sex couples establish long term residency before they are allowed to get divorced in that state. In the event the couple moved states after they got married, they would be forced to move back to the state they were originally married in and had to re-establish their residency in order to be divorced. This is a lot of work for couples to relocate and rebuild their lives in order to ultimately just get a divorce. Another common case was that same-sex couples who decided to travel out of the country or state to get married legally returned to their state and were refused a divorce because their state did not recognize their marriage as legal.
In some more liberal states like Washington, couples are allowed the same regulations of a divorce, regardless of same-sex or different-sex status. When it comes to establishing custody and division of assets, the law equally applies to everyone. This means that when states like Washington rule on child custody issues, the court will always rule in whatever is best for the child. Washington opts out of using common terms like “sole custody” and “joint custody,” and instead talks about how much time is allowed with both parents. It is the same concept, just worded in a different way.
Depending on if the child is adopted by both parents or biologically related to one parent, same-sex custody issues can arise. Typically, one parent is named the primary parent in cases where adoption was done, but Washington courts still try to give each parent 50 percent of custody. This is even easier to do when both parents live nearby. If the child biologically came from one of the parents, things can get a lot tougher. Ultimately, it depends on who the court sees as a fit parent, so sometimes even the parent who is not biologically related to the child is awarded custody rights.