Weddings are full of possibilities and hope for the future. For many same-sex couples, weddings are more than that. They are a recognition of their family unit by the state of Maryland, bounded by the legal rights and privileges afforded heterosexual couples for generations. But what happens when hope fades and the time comes to go your separate ways?
Same-sex Divorce Laws in Maryland
Marriage is considered a contractual agreement between two people. To nullify that contract, specific criteria must be met. To be granted an absolute divorce, the couple must be legally separated for 12 months or more, there must be evidence of adultery, abuse, abandonment, or cruelty, one of the people involved must be convicted of a crime or committed, or the couple has lived apart for two years without sexual contact.
For same-sex couples, the divorce criteria are identical to that for heterosexual couples. Once granted, the divorce decree will outline any applicable custody arrangements or spousal support agreements made during the process.
While getting divorced is identical, sorting custody arrangements for same-sex couples often becomes complicated, especially when it comes to biology. If a same-sex couple adopts a child, that child is considered theirs and custody are determined the way it would be for any heterosexual couple. If both parents are fit, a custody arrangement can be created that will meet the needs of both parents and the child. If one spouse is the biological parent of the child and the other spouse has adopted that child, they are both legal parents with the same rights as any other couple.
However, if one spouse is the biological parent and the other has not legally adopted the child, the biological parent retains all legal rights. Custody arrangements can still be legalized in the divorce decree but doing so is difficult and often at the discretion of the biological parent.
While common law marriages cannot be created in Maryland, the state recognizes common law marriages created in other states. In this situation, legal action is required to dissolve a common law marriage created in other states. To dissolve a common law marriage, couples may be required to meet the same requirements as they would for a legal marriage.
However, these laws and requirements do not apply to those who are cohabitating but who are not legally married. In these situations, especially when assets must be divided and custody arrangements made, the advice of an attorney can help unravel the intricacies of a relationship.
If the couple has adopted children, both people are considered parents with custodial rights. If only one is a biological parent and the other has adopted the children, both are considered parents. If one is a biological parent and the other has not adopted the children, the biological parent retains legal parental rights in the separation.
If you are considering a divorce, you need an experienced attorney, well-acquainted with your legal rights and the complexities of dissolving a marriage. Let Jaimee McDowell help you navigate your new territory.