Divorce of same-sex couples

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Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. Same-sex marriage legal throughout Danish Realm though law in Faroe Islands not yet in effect
  2. Marriages performed in some municipalities and recognized by the state
  3. For some purposes, from all jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal
  4. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  5. When performed in the Netherlands proper
  6. Registration schemes opened in all jurisdictions except Hualien County, Keeling City, Penghu County, Taitung County, and Yunlin County

* Not yet in effect

LGBT portal

The extension of civil marriage, union, and domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples in various jurisdictions can raise legal issues upon dissolution of these unions that are not experienced by opposite-sex couples, especially if law of their residence or nationality does not have same-sex marriage or partnerships.

Conflict of laws[edit]

In jurisdictions where same-sex unions are not possible, also divorce or annulment is often not possible, while general conflict of law rules sometimes exclude divorce in the jurisdiction where the marriage was celebrated.

In some jurisdictions divorce is possible, even if marriage is not possible. They are listed below:

Jurisdiction Comment
Aruba Marriages from the Netherlands only[1]
Israel [2]

United States[edit]

Before the case of Obergefell v. Hodges couples in same-sex marriages can generally obtain a divorce only in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriages, with some exceptions.[3] Same-sex couples attempting to divorce in Texas, which does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages, have met with different results and two cases are pending before the Texas Supreme Court.[4][5][6] Two women who had legally married in Massachusetts and moved to Florida are challenging that state's ban on same-sex marriages in order to divorce.[7] The Florida litigants' petition for divorce was dismissed by the trial court, but they are appealing,[8] and the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar has moved to file an amicus brief in favor of the right to divorce by same-sex spouses.[9] The federal government's denial of recognition to same-sex marriages prior to United States v. Windsor meant that prior to 2013, the assets transferred in a divorce settlement were treated as gifts.[10] Same-sex couples in states that deny them access to divorce can end their legal relationship at greater cost by bringing a civil suit.[10]

When Delaware and Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage in May 2013, they gave their respective state courts the authority to conduct divorce proceedings in cases where a same-sex couple married in the state but neither party resides in a state that recognizes their marriage.[11][12]

Divorce rates[edit]


Between 2004 and 2009, the average annual divorce rate for all homosexual marriages was almost 2% (the total rate of divorce over those 5 years was 11%) Also between 2004 and 2009, lesbian divorce rates were nearly double of those of gay men.[13]


As of 1997, the same-sex partnership divorce rate was significantly lower than that of heterosexual couples in Denmark. The vast majority of gay marriages in Denmark are male-male. Fourteen (14) percent of these end in divorce, compared to 23 percent of female marriages. The higher rate for lesbians (almost double), is consistent with data showing that women initiate most of the heterosexual divorces in Denmark.[14]


In the Netherlands, slightly more marriages between women are recorded than between men: between 2006-2011 on average 690 and 610 per year respectively.

The lesbian divorce rate is much higher than the divorce rate between men: in the same period on average 100 women and 45 men divorced per year (i.e., Lesbian divorce rate = 14%, Gay Male divorce rate = 7%).[15]

Norway and Sweden[edit]

A study on short-term same-sex registered partnerships in Norway and Sweden found that divorce rates were 50-167% higher for same-sex couples than opposite-sex marriages, and that unions of lesbians are considerably less stable, or more subject to serious change, than unions of gay men.[16] The authors cited that this may be due to same-sex couples "non-involvement in joint parenthood", "lower exposure to normative pressure about the necessity of life-long unions" as well as differing motivations for getting married.[16]

In the above study, lesbians divorce risks were 77%-132% higher than for gay men (Table 4).

South Africa[edit]

No statistics are available for divorce of same-sex couples in South Africa.

United Kingdom[edit]

The divorce rate of same-sex couples within 29 months of the introduction of legally binding civil partnerships was slightly less than one percent in the United Kingdom.[17]

Many sources cite that lesbian divorce rates are twice the rate of gay male divorce.[18][19][20]

United States[edit]

As of 2011, for states with available data, one study initially reported that the dissolution rates for same-sex couples were slightly lower on average than divorce rates of different-sex couples. The percentage of those same-sex couples who end their legal relationship ranges from 0% to 1.8%, or 1.1% on average across all listed jurisdictions per year, while 2% of married opposite-sex couples divorce annually.[21] According, however, to a Washington Post article retracting an earlier headline about the report, the study incorrectly calculated the percentage due to an error in capturing when the same-sex marriages began. As a result, the corrected findings show a 2% divorce rate — the same as married opposite sex couples. The article states that more data is needed over a longer period of time in order to provide accurate statistics on the topic.[22] Some studies have shown that lesbian committed relationships do not last as long as gay male committed relationships.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Case BM9542" (in Dutch). Court of first instance of Aruba. 5 March 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Lior, Ilan (3 December 2012). "Court grants divorce to gay couple for first time in Israeli history". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Tips on Avoiding Same-Sex Divorce Complications". The Huffington Post. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "No. 11-0024". Supreme Court of Texas Blog. 
  5. ^ "No. 11-0114". Supreme Court of Texas Blog. 
  6. ^ Rozen, Miriam (17 December 2012). "Tex Parte Blog: Lawyer in two same-sex divorce cases awaits Texas Supreme Court decision on petitions for review". Texas Lawyer. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  7. ^ Anton, Leonora (24 March 2014). "Tampa couple's divorce could challenge same-sex marriage ban". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Cordover, Adam (10 May 2014). "Tampa Same Sex Divorce Dismissed by Trial Judge; Parties to Appeal". ABC Family Law Blog. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Cordover, Adam (16 August 2014). "Florida Bar Family Law Section Moves to File Brief in Same Sex Divorce Appeal". ABC Family Law Blog. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Ellis, Blake (13 May 2013). "The high cost of same-sex divorce". CNN Money. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "House Bill 75, Sec. 7.". Delaware Legislature. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Minnesota Legislature. "Senate File 925, Sec. 7.". Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  13. ^ EL. "Marital Bliss? Gender Gaps...". Gender Across Borders. Retrieved 26 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Marian Jones (1 May 1997). "Lessons from a Gay Marriage: Despite stereotypes of gay relationships as short-lived, gay unions highlight the keys to success". Psychology Today. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Lesbiennes scheiden veel meer dan homo's (Lesbians divorce much more than gays)". Nu.nl (in Dutch). 24 January 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Andersson, Gunnar (February 2006). "The Demographics of Same-Sex 'Marriages' in Norway and Sweden" (PDF). Demography. 43 (1): 79–98. doi:10.1353/dem.2006.0001. 
  17. ^ Tony Grew (7 August 2008). "Less than 1% of civil partnerships end in ‘divorce’". Pink News. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  18. ^ "Are Lesbian Marriages Doomed for Failure?". BigThink.com. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Lesbians Initiate Divorce As Often As Straight Women". Hooking Up Smart.com. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  20. ^ "UK: Lesbian Couples Twice As Likely As Gay Men To End Civil Partnerships". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Badgett, M.V. Lee; Herman, Jody L. (November 2011). "Patterns of Relationship Recognition by Same-Sex Couples in the United States" (PDF). The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. 
  22. ^ "Same-sex divorce rate not as low as it seemed". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  23. ^ "Divorce and Marriage Rates for Same-Sex Couples". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 

Further reading[edit]