Going through a divorce for any Maryland couple can be difficult, especially if there are marital assets or children involved. However, going through a divorce within the LGBT community can be even more difficult due to the unique stressors and legal complications that the community faces.
In general, domestic partnerships in Maryland are similar to marriages. However, they do not share all the same benefits. Depending on the local jurisdiction, domestic partnerships may be limited to senior couples or couples with at least one partner over 62 years old. Some places refer to domestic partnerships as "civil unions."
With the emergence of same-sex marriage in Maryland and nationwide, social scientists have asked whether differences exist among female-female, male-male and male-female marriages. A newly published study based on data from 515 couples collected between 2002 to 2014 found that female-female couples had the highest chance of terminating their relationships. Male-male couples broke up at the lowest rates, and the percentages of heterosexual couples splitting up fell in the middle.
Maryland's same-sex marriage law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 and while the law seeks to provide marriage equality for all state residents, same-sex couples who chose to have their own or who adopt children often still encounter legal obstacles and challenges.
Maryland residents who are in same-sex relationships and have children may run into a number of problems if they break up. A case in Kentucky that has drawn attention involves a woman who was in a relationship with another woman, and the other woman became pregnant thanks to a sperm donor. The first woman has no biological connection to the child, but she was named on the child's medical records, cared for the child and had a parenting agreement after the couple broke up.
In a statement, the IRS said on Oct. 21 that it would recognize same-sex marriages in all 50 states for tax purposes. The marriages would be recognized even if they have taken place in states that have not yet legalized such unions. The impetus for the ruling was the June 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges which dealt with a man who had traveled from Ohio to Maryland to marry his partner who was dying from Lou Gehrig's disease.
The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was a game-changer in many states that did not allow same-sex marriages or did not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. However, for same-sex couples in Maryland and across the country, the ruling left some questions unresolved.
A Maryland judge has said that current state law leaves him with no choice but to rule against the claim of a woman filing for custody or visitation rights following the end of a same-sex marriage. The woman had filed for paternity rights to the child her partner gave birth to six months before the two married. The decision by the Court of Special Appeals on Sept. 2 upheld a ruling of the Washington County Circuit Court.
The June 2015 Supreme Court decision that overturned the final legal block to gay marriage also opened the door for divorce among same-sex couples. While in the main this will not be handled materially differently from heterosexual marriages, there are some crucial key differences that will require vetting through case law to resolve properly. This is because many of these situations are not currently countenanced by existing legal precedent, including tax law and child custody considerations.