Bergen County LGBTQ Divorce Lawyer
New Jersey began recognizing same-sex marriage in 2013 and the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015. Divorce laws are the same for opposite and same-sex couples in New Jersey, but some legal complications are more common in LGBTQ same-sex divorces. If you are a member of the LGBTQ community considering ending your same-sex marriage, consulting with an experienced divorce attorney is crucial.
New Jersey is unique because it allows people in registered domestic partnerships or civil unions, instead of just married couples, to seek a legal dissolution of their relationship. A Bergen County LGBTQ divorce lawyer can explain the laws relevant to your case and provide strong representation throughout this process.
Initiating a Same-Sex Divorce
Anyone who has lived in New Jersey for at least one year can file for divorce here. However, spouses in a domestic partnership or civil union should know that other states might not provide a legal process allowing them to dissolve their union at all. In that case, either party could file for divorce in the county where they entered their domestic partnership or civil union.
There are several legal options for proceeding with a same-sex dissolution, some of which depend on whether the relationship is a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership. Couples can file for divorce on a fault or no-fault basis. Most couples choose a no-fault divorce, which means neither party has to offer proof of the other’s misconduct that led to the demise of the relationship.
Depending on the circumstances of the dissolution, couples can also file for a contested divorce or attempt to proceed with an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce can be an option when the couple agrees on a settlement of all relevant issues before filing for divorce in Court. If the parties reach a settlement before filing, the divorce filing will simply request a divorce based on the agreement the parties previously reached. A contested divorce is where the parties file for divorce and requests the Court to adjudicate the issues. A contested divorce that does not settle with a mutual agreement will lead to a trial upon which the Court will decide all issues. A Bergen County LGBTQ divorce attorney can explain the different types of divorces during an initial consultation.
Financial Issues in Divorce
When any couple dissolves their relationship, they must divide their property. New Jersey Statute § 2A:34-23.1 establishes that a couple seeking a divorce must have their property divided equitably, which does not necessarily mean equally. Only property spouses acquire during their marriage is subject to equitable distribution except in extremely limited circumstances. A Bergen County attorney can explain how a court distinguishes separate property from property the couple owns jointly.
Couples must also consider whether one partner will get spousal support. Spousal support could be an issue if one spouse establishes a need for ongoing financial assistance and demonstrates that the other spouse has the means to pay for it.
Issues Regarding Children
Many same-sex couples raise children together. If both partners have a biological or adoptive relationship with the child, they both have legal parental rights. Each partner has a presumed right to physical and legal custody if the relationship ends, and each must provide financial support for the child. New Jersey courts favor splitting custody between parents as equally as possible.
When only one partner is a legal parent, as often happens if a same-sex couple grows their family through in vitro fertilization or surrogacy, the couple could initiate a second-parent adoption. This process requires the other biological parent’s consent but allows both members of the same-sex couple to gain legal parental rights over their child.
When no adoption takes place, the partner who is not the child’s legal parent does not have a presumed right to custody or visitation. In that case, one solution is for the partners to create an agreement that allows the non-legal parent a certain amount of time with the child. If the other parent refuses, the non-legal parent can ask the Court to declare them as the child’s psychological parent. An LGBTQ divorce attorney in Bergen County can advise a same-sex couple or party to a same-sex relationship with children about the best way to proceed in their unique situation.
Work With a Knowledgeable Bergen County LGBTQ Divorce Attorney
Ending a relationship you thought would last forever is never easy, but you do not have to handle it alone. If you and your spouse or partner have decided it is best to formally end your relationship, consult a Bergen County LGBTQ divorce lawyer. Our team at Moskowitz Law Group is prepared to walk you through every step of this process. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation.