In January 2015, Florida same-sex couples officially received the right to legally marry. For many, this meant formalizing their unions under the eyes of the law. However, for other same-sex couples, the decision brought with it another advantage—the right to divorce.
Many of these couples had married in other states that allowed same-sex marriage, but later wanted to get divorced after they had moved to Florida. Under a catch-22 of the law, those couples could not divorce in a state other than their home state. Because the Sunshine State did not allow same-sex marriage, it also did not recognize the right to divorce for these couples. This gave same-sex couples wishing to end their unions the options of either relocating to pursue a divorce or simply waiting for the law to change in Florida.
Although the law did eventually change, it still did not mean that all courts were willing to honor it. In fact, Florida judges who did not support the legal right to divorce for same-sex couples rejected many petitions for divorce. These judges often argued that, while same-sex marriage was legal, the law did not address the right for a divorce in a same-sex union, and therefore they did not need to grant one.
One couple whose divorce petition was rejected had appealed the decision, arguing that the new legislation codified not only the right to marriage, but also the right to divorce. In April 2015, a Florida appellate court sided with the couple and reversed the lower court’s decision. It cited that there was no legitimate government reason to refuse a divorce. The decision is an important one, as it should pave the way for other same-sex couples to pursue divorces without additional legal complications.
If you are in a same-sex marriage and you need assistance filing for divorce or appealing a rejected petition in Florida, reach out to an experienced family law attorney.
Attorney Shane Herbert also contributed to this blog post.