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What does same-sex marriage mean for divorce in Florida?

The latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has essentially made it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry or have their marriage licenses from other states be legally recognized by the state of Florida.

Despite the fact that same-sex marriage was made legal in January of this year, some Florida legislators managed to stifle same-sex marriages in the state. This resulted in an appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. However, the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling has brought an end to the state of Florida's ban on same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal throughout the United States and same-sex couples will enjoy the same rights as any married couple.

While proponents of same-sex marriage celebrate what this ruling means for loving couples, it's important to note that some of the most important legal rights that come with marriage come into play should the marriage end in divorce.

One of these rights is the right to property division. When a couple is not legally married, the parties typically have little or no right to a fair distribution of the couple's property. If most of the property was held in just one partner's name, the other partner can be left out in the cold, even if he or she spent years taking care of the house and other assets. If the couple was legally married however, this type of grossly unfair scenario should not happen.

Likewise, a couple who was married in a state where same-sex marriage was legal and later moved to a state where it was not should now be free to divorce in the state where they live.

It's not over yet however, in order to finalize the Supreme Court ruling once and for all, is a series of procedural steps that need to be taken by the 11th Circuit and the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. Once those steps are taken, same-sex couples' ability to marry in the state of Florida will be cemented for good. Anyone interested in learning more about how the Supreme Court decision applies to their situation may want consult with a family law attorney.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "What does the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling mean for Florida?" Anna Phillips, June 26, 2015

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