Can Florida Same Sex Marriage Couples Divorce?

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Same-sex marriage in Florida is not recognized, which has posed a number of questions to Jacksonville and other Florida divorce attorneys about how to handle to such matters. The State of Florida originally initiated a statute defining that same-sex marriage would not be considered legally authorized or recognized in the state of Florida. That, not being enough, in 2008, Floridians voted by 62% to institute Amendment 2 to the Constitution, which gave us the language of Article I, Section 2, defining marriage as, “the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
As other states, like Vermont, have enacted the right for same-sex couples to forge in the bonds of matrimony, that marriage is not given full faith and credit in states like Florida. In accordance with Florida Statute 741.212, such marriages that are valid elsewhere are not considered valid if the couple decides to reside in Florida. Therefore, a legal marriage is not legally dissolved in Florida. This means that if the marriage is valid in another state and not recognized where the couple resides, for the marriage to be properly dissolved, the couple must move to a state where their marriage is legal. In places like Vermont, the residency requirement before filing for divorce is one year as opposed to six months in Florida. This can put a strain on the individuals if they were to have the marriage dissolved effectively. However, there may be arguments to say that since you reside in a State where the marriage is not recognized that there are no real reasons to have it properly dissolved because in essence, the marriage is void. In that situation though, the problem would be in dividing property, assets and debts, which can be divided equally or fairly in a divorce.
This leaves a great deal of difficulty for same-sex couples and could potentially be construed as unconstitutional and interfering with ones right to travel, which has been upheld as a constitutional right by the U.S. Supreme Court, beginning with U.S. v Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966).
The real question becomes, when will a couple challenge the State’s law? Couples that are moving to Florida for work in an economy desperate for jobs, are not afforded the same rights as a marriage between a man and a woman. Furthermore, if that couple is not able to work through their difficulties, divorce is not available to them in Florida. Therefore, the laws have to be creative in order to separate property, assets, debts and the like so as not to overburden the married couple. If there are items, such as a home, purchased during the marriage, then assessing the person responsible for the debts, expenses, etc. comes down to possibly developing a contract to separate out such property. Therefore, the arguments may be similar to a divorce, but the ultimate outcome may be a contract instead of a divorce order.
If you are in a same-sex marriage and are in need of legal assistance regarding your rights in Florida, please contact an attorney who understands the laws and can properly assist you. Also, if you are in a same-sex relationship, there are financial protections you can have, it is important to find out all of your options from a qualified individual.