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Same-sex marriage is a significant family law issue

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The recent election was historic in that for the first time ever, voters in three states, Maryland and Maine and Washington, approved of ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriages. In addition to this, Minnesota rejected a proposal similar to the one approved in Arizona that would have amended the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

There are now nine states that allow gay marriage in their constitutions and 30 states that officially prohibit it. The recent turn towards a more tolerant approach is being interpreted by some as a signal that public opinion is shifting toward more acceptance of same-sex marriage. As such, it may be the most important family law issue that courts will be tackling in the immediate future.

As more and more states are staking their ground on one side or another of this issue, there will be more and more family questions about this trend. What happens when a same-sex couple that is legally married in Maine moves to Arizona and raises a family there? What if, 25 years later, they decide to seek a divorce? Will Arizona allow them to divorce? If Arizona does not legally recognize their marriage in the first place, do their rights as a married couple disappear? These are important family legal issues that the courts will be addressing more and more.

All those who are currently fighting for what they view as their "right" to get married would probably do well to mind the statistics, and to prepare also for the inevitability that some of these new types of marriage arrangements are likely to end in divorce. With divorce comes all of the other family law issues associated with the end of a marriage, such as property division, spousal support, child custody disputes and visitation plans.

Source: New York Times, "Same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships," Lou Dematteis, Nov. 7, 2012

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