Arizona readers may be familiar with the case of Thomas Beatie, an Arizona transgender man, who filed for a divorce in this state. This blog has been following the fascinating legal arguments that have been raised by this case, which includes whether a state, that does not recognize same sex marriage, can grant a divorce to someone who was married in another state, where same sex marriage is permissible. Very recently, the court in this case decided that this was a same sex marriage, and that, even though it is considered a valid marriage in the state of Hawaii, it could not be recognized as a valid one in the state of Arizona. Therefore, the court determined that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the petition for divorce.
This case has come about at a very interesting point in the history of family law. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has just heard arguments on whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union only between a man and a woman, is enforceable. Many legal experts believe that this Act may be struck down by the Court. If so, this could create a whole new set of complicated family law legal issues for same sex couples who live in states such as Arizona that have laws on the books banning same-sex marriage.
Married couples enjoy over 1,100 federal benefits that unmarried couples do not. For example, a married spouse is able to receive social security benefits upon the death of their spouse. Same sex couples cannot receive this benefit, even if they are legally married in their state. The same goes for health care benefits for the spouse of a federal employee, and Veterans Administration benefits for the surviving spouse members of the armed forces. Furthermore, same sex couples are also not allowed to file joint tax returns.
With respect to alimony, even in states that recognize same sex marriage, federal tax laws, which allow the paying party to deduct the expenditure from that party's annual income taxes, cannot be applied to same sex couples due to DOMA. Even though Thomas Beaty does not have to pay alimony now, he plans to appeal the decision.
Source: Associated Press, "Transgender man plans to keep seeking divorce," Jacques Billeaud, April 2, 2013.