If you are going through a same-sex separation or a same-sex divorce, it is vital to seek the advice of an experienced Virginia divorce lawyer. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, our lawyers sit down with our clients and explain what to expect during the same-sex divorce process. Our legal team helps our clients understand the full extent of their rights as they go through the same-sex divorce process. We know that the divorce process can become contentious, and we fight hard for the rights of our clients throughout the same-sex divorce process.
Going through a same-sex divorce can be challenging and complicated. Same-sex divorce laws are often state-specific. Each state has its own individualized same-sex marriage laws. This individualization can play an essential role in which court determines the length of a marriage, and which items are marital community property. Indeed, same-sex family law has evolved at a fast pace in recent years. When a same-sex couple entered into a civil union and later entered into a Virginia marriage, additional legal issues might arise. Child custody issues and long-term cohabitation can add challenges when it comes to same-sex divorce.
The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage in Virginia
Same-sex marriage and divorce became legal in 2014. Before the legalization of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples in Virginia would often need to file as many as three civil lawsuits to resolve legal issues related to their separation. In many cases, one party would need to file a partition lawsuit in Virginia Circuit Court to split up any real estate owned by both partners.
Currently, same-sex Virginia couples can obtain a divorce in a Virginia family court when they meet Virginia’s residency and domicile requirements. Same-sex couples who became legally married in another state who meet these requirements may also file for divorce in Virginia. Virginia family courts have the authority to distribute the property of the divorcing same-sex couple and decide whether or not to award spousal support. If the court determines that spousal support is appropriate, the court can set a monthly amount and duration for the spousal support.
Long-Term Cohabitation and Same-Sex Divorce in Virginia
Many couples commit themselves to their relationship and cohabitate before becoming married under Virginia law. Before Virginia recognized same-sex marriage, many same-sex couples cohabitated and functioned as a married couple from a financial standpoint. Virginia applies the law of equitable distribution when dividing up the marital property of divorcing spouses.
Determining what constitutes marital property is more challenging when a same-sex couple functioned as a married couple and then became married when same-sex marriage became legalized in Virginia. The point at which a Virginia judge considers the beginning of the same-sex couple’s marriage can have a significant impact on the division of property during their separation or divorce.
Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Divorces
In many same-sex marriages, only one parent is the biological parent of the shared child. This situation can complicate child custody issues during and after a same-sex separation or divorce. Virginia family law has not traditionally recognized any relationship between a non-legal parent, a non-biological parent, and a child. What happens when one parent is the biological parent of the child, and the other parent does not legally adopt the child? The non-biological parent can face challenges in asserting a right to custody of the child.
If a spouse is not the biological parent of a child and did not legally adopt the child, he or she should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. The sooner a parent speaks with a skilled Virginia family law attorney, the more prepared the parent will be when facing child custody and visitation issues. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we help our clients develop an effective legal strategy as they go through the divorce process. We understand how important children are and fight hard for our clients during same-sex custody battles and visitation issues.
Virginia Same-Sex Divorce Requirements
All divorcing couples, whether heterosexual or same-sex couples, must meet Virginia’s basic requirements for divorce. Virginia recognizes no-fault divorce when the parties have lived apart for more than one year and they intend to continue to live apart without any cohabitation. When the spouses agree to a Separation Agreement or Property Settlement and there are no minor children, the time period for separation becomes reduced from one year to six months.
A spouse can also seek a divorce from the bonds of matrimony for adultery, sodomy, buggery, or conviction of a felony. Additionally, Virginia recognizes divorce from bed and board in specific circumstances. The spouse petitioning for divorce must show that the other spouse is at fault. Grounds for divorce from bed and board include the following:
- Willful desertion or abandonment
- Cruelty by one spouse that causes the other spouse reasonable fear of bodily harm
Mental cruelty alone is not enough for a fault-based divorce in Virginia unless the mental cruelty is so serious that it endangers the physical or mental health of the spouse seeking the divorce. The cruelty must be so significant that it tends to cause bodily harm and makes it unsafe for the spouses to live together.
A spouse can file a lawsuit for abandonment or desertion immediately after the separation. When the desertion continues for over a year after the separation date, the desertion will become a sufficient ground for divorce. When the cause of the divorce is cruelty, a spouse can file for divorce immediately after separation.
After a year from the act or acts of cruelty, the filing spouse will have grounds for divorce. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we can help you determine the best way to file for divorce in your specific circumstances and we will fight for your interests throughout the process.
Alimony Payments for Same-Sex Couples
Virginia judges can decide to award one spouse alimony after the divorce in which one spouse pays the other spouse a monthly stipend in an amount determined by the judge. A Virginia court judge will stop required alimony payments when one of the following takes place:
- The recipient of alimony payments becomes married to another person
- The recipient begins habitually cohabitating with another individual for a year or longer
Retaining the Legal Services of a Same-Sex Divorce Lawyer in Virginia
The experienced same-sex divorce lawyers at Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC understand how complicated the process of divorce can be. We also have an in-depth understanding of the issues facing same-sex couples who are divorcing. If you have concerns about your rights throughout the divorce process or you’re concerned about property division, or child custody issues, we can help. Contact our Virginia family law firm today to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our family law attorneys.