What LGBTQ Couples Should Know About Divorce In California

What LGBTQ Couples Should Know About Divorce In California

by Sep 9, 2020Divorce

If you are in an LGTBQ marriage in California and considering a divorce, there are a couple unique issues and potential challenges you need to be aware of. While LGBTQ divorce is treated the same as opposite-gender divorce in most ways, the ways in which it differs can have a significant impact on your life.

Length Of Marriage

If you and your partner were married prior to 2015 (the year in which the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages naitonally), there’s chance that the court will only consider the length of your marriage from 2015 forward. This means if you’ve been married for fifteen years, the court may only consider the last five years as being legally married.

This can have a profound impact on issues like community property and division of assets. In California, anything an individual purchases prior to getting married is typically exempt from being divided in the divorce. This includes items like:

  • Property
  • Automobiles
  • Investments
  • Pets

If this scenario occurs during your divorce, then the spouse that made the purchase will retain ownership of items bought prior to 2015.

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Child Custody

Child custody is frequently a very difficult issue in LGBTQ divorces. Spouses who adopted their children before marriage may find it virtually impossible to adopt their significant other’s children. If you were never considered the child’s legal parent, most state courts will not grant visitation, custody, or parental rights to the non-biological, non-adopting parent.

Because the issue is so complex, it’s important to discuss possible outcomes with an experienced family law attorney before making your final decision.

Spousal Support

LGBTQ couples in California are entitled to the exact same rights as opposite gender couples with regards to spousal support (alimony). However, if you and your partner both work and don’t have children, spousal support may be unnecessary if you both earn comparable wages.

On the other hand, many LGBTQ couples enjoy a higher standard of living than opposite gender couples because they both work and don’t have children to support. In cases where spousal support is required in an LGBTQ divorce, the paying spouse may have to pay more to meet their ex’s standard of living.

Choose Your Attorney Wisely

Despite California being a very liberal and progressive state (most of the time), not all family law attorneys have experience handling LGBTQ divorces. When choosing your attorney, make sure to ask if they’ve worked with LGBTQ clients before and what the process is like.

If you have additional questions, or would like to schedule a free consultation with us, please contact our office today.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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