Divorce of same-sex couples
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
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:
|Aruba||Marriages from the Netherlands only|
The federal government's denial of recognition to same-sex marriages before the 2013 United States v. Windsor case meant that assets transferred in a divorce settlement were treated as gifts. Before the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, couples in same-sex marriages (with some exceptions) could generally obtain a divorce only in jurisdictions that recognized same-sex marriages. Some same-sex couples brought civil suits to end their marriages in states that denied them access to divorce; civil suits cost more.
Same-sex couples attempting to divorce in Texas while it did not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages met with different results. Two cases went before the Texas Supreme Court; the Court declined to hear one and said it had no jurisdiction to decide the other.
A Florida couple who had legally married in Massachusetts, Keiba Lynn Shaw and Mariama Changamire Shaw, challenged Florida's ban on same-sex marriages in order to divorce. After their petition was dismissed by the trial court, they appealed, and the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar moved to file an amicus brief in favor of the right to divorce by same-sex spouses. In 2015, two Florida couples who had been married in Massachusetts — first Danielle and Krista Brandon-Thomas, then the Shaws — were allowed to divorce.
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 currently resided in a state that recognized their marriage.
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.
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.
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%).
A study tracking married couples over a 10 year span found lesbian marriages were most likely to end in divorce. Of the 580 lesbian couples who were married in 2005, 30% were divorced ten years later compared to 18% for heterosexual couples and 15% for gay male couples.
Norway and Sweden
A study on short-term same-sex registered partnerships in Norway and Sweden found that divorce rates were 50% lower for same-sex couples than opposite-sex marriages, and that unions of lesbians are considerably less stable, or more dynamic, than unions of gay men.
In the above study, lesbians divorce risks were 10% higher than for gay men (Table 4).
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.
Many sources cite that lesbian divorce rates are twice the rate of gay male divorce, Data from 2016 data showis a bigger gap, with lesbians being two and a half times more likely to divorce than gay male couples, comprising 78% of same-sex divorces for that year.
Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, does not track how many of the divorces in the state are between same-sex couples. A 2011 study for states with available data initially reported that the dissolution rates for same-sex couples were slightly lower on average (on average, 1.1% of all same-sex couples were said to divorce each year, ranging from 0% to 1.8% in various jurisdictions) than divorce rates of different-sex couples (2% of whom divorce annually). The Washington Post retracted a headline about this report because the study had 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 for same-sex couples — the same as opposite-sex couples. More accurate statistics will be available as time passes.
Some studies have shown that lesbian committed relationships do not last as long as gay male committed relationships.
- Status of same-sex marriage, status around the world
- Civil solidarity pact, French civil unions, available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples
- Civil union, Domestic partnership, other non-marriage legal unions available to same-sex couples in certain jurisdictions
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