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How will gay marriage affect Maryland divorce?

As most of our readers probably know, Maryland has joined a handful of states in allowing gay marriage. By a narrow margin, Marylanders voted to uphold a law passed earlier and that extends the right to get married to homosexual couples.

These couple now will enjoy the same legal benefits of marriage that opposite-sex couples do. How this will affect Maryland divorce is not entirely clear at this early stage, although it appears that homosexual couples will simply follow the law and procedures already in place.

As the law stands currently, a homosexual couple who were ending a long-term relationship could not simply walk in to a Maryland court and ask for a division of the couple’s property. Instead, the couple would likely have to rely on other legal principles, such as contract law, in order to accomplish a fair distribution.

However, now that these couples will be allowed to divorce, the couple should be able simply to divide their property according to Maryland divorce law. While normally this involves a judge’s placing a total value on the property and then splitting it equally, some exceptions apply.

The new provision will also likely give homosexual couples who have either adopted a child or have used reproductive technology to have a child of their own will also be able utilize a divorce proceeding in order to establish a child custody and visitation plan that will serve the child’s best interest. A divorce court should also order child support.

While some divorce lawyers may have to make minor adjustments to accommodate the needs of homosexual couples, hopefully the transition will go quite smoothly because Maryland’s divorce laws are already established.

Source: The Washington Post, “Maryland approves same-sex marriage law,” John Wagner, Paul Schwartzman and Ned Martel, Nov. 7, 2012.

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