A same-sex couple in Tarrant County, Texas, is trying to end their marriage, each by different means. Just how the couple, who married in 2010 in New Hampshire, end their marriage would impact their individual financial futures.
This is not the first time a same-sex married couple living in Texas has sought to legally split. We have discussed other cases here. However, it is a first for Tarrant County.
One spouse asked a district judge to allow the couple to divorce. By being granted a divorce, she would be able to retain some of the couple's property and may be eligible for spousal support.
The other spouse, however, asked the judge to declare the marriage "void" since Texas doesn't recognize it. Her lawyer noted that while her client disagrees with the state ban on same-sex marriage, she doesn't want to "change the law or to be a crusader," but to "use the laws that are currently available to her through the Texas Family Code to answer the question, is she married and, if so, how does she exit that marriage?" She noted that Texas courts have voided bigamist marriages, which are also illegal in Texas, and that those decisions have been upheld on appeal.
The judge determined that he had no jurisdiction to rule on the case since Texas doesn't recognize the marriage. The Texas Defense of Marriage Act also prohibits same-sex marriage. The lawyer for the woman who wants a divorce says that the only alternative for her client would be to move back to New Hampshire for possibly as long as a year to establish residency before seeking a divorce there. She indicated that this isn't a viable option.
The couple's future may depend on a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. In that case, a federal judge ruled that Texas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That appeals court decision could impact the lives of numerous same-sex couples in Texas who wish to marry or divorce.
As same-sex marriage becomes legal in more and more states, Texas courts will have to find a way to deal with couples who move here and then, like many heterosexual couples, seek to end their marriage. Texas family law attorneys can help couples work within the state laws as they stand now and as they change in the future.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Texas judge denies request to end same-sex marriage" Deanna Boyd, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sep. 19, 2014