Marriage vs Divorce a Same-Sex Tale

In 2004, H1 and H2 entered into a domestic partnership in New Jersey. (At this time, same-sex couples could not marry, but “marital” rights and obligations were accorded these couples.) In 2006, they moved to New York where the remained domestic partners. In 2009, the couple moved to Connecticut and were legally married there.

In 2011, the couple moved to California and purchased a home in joint tenancy. (Joint tenancy provides survival right to the spouse that lived, without any probate concerns.)

Sadly, in 2012, their marriage ended and H2 filed for divorce based on the couple’s 2009 Connecticut marriage.

The family law judge, at the end of trial, determined that H1 and H2 married on February 6, 2009 – the date of their Connecticut marriage. The trial judge determined the separate property for both men and declined to award any permanent spousal support. (“Permanent” spousal support can be ordered for one spouse to be paid by other spouse if the parties were in a long-term marriage – 10 or more years.)

The trial court reviewed New Jersey and California law governing domestic partnerships and noted that while New Jersey law provided a few select rights "to domestic partners, California law "extends all of the rights and duties of marriage to domestic partners."

H1 appealed arguing that the date of marriage should be August 10, 2004 with their New Jersey domestic partnership (making their marriage for over ten years and could allow H1 to receive permanent spousal support). H1 further argued that the New Jersey domestic partnership is substantially similar to California’s domestic partnerships, and the trial judge should have based his decision on that.

The Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision stating that the 2004 New Jersey Domestic Partnership was not the same as a California domestic partnership:

“A legal union of two persons of the same sex, other than a marriage, that was validly formed in another jurisdiction, and that is substantially equivalent to a domestic partnership as defined in this part, shall be recognized as a valid domestic partnership in this state regardless of whether it bears the name domestic partnership.” (Emphasis added)

Categories: Spousal Support
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