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|
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. 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. 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. The Florida litigants' petition for divorce was dismissed by the trial court, but they are appealing, 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. 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. Same-sex couples in states that deny them access to divorce can end their legal relationship at greater cost by bringing a civil suit.
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.
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%).
Norway and Sweden
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. 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.
In the above study, lesbians divorce risks were 77%-132% higher than for gay men (Table 4).
No statistics are available for divorce of same-sex couples in South Africa.
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.
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. 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. 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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