How same-sex couples are treated depends on the state in which they are located, as well as on the contracts a couple has made.
Because most states treat same-sex couples as legal strangers, it is not unreasonable to prepare for the contingency of separation with agreements and legal documents which address the true nature of the relationship. This allows the possibility of protecting the interests of both parties in the event of a parting of the ways.
If the separation is amicable, there are many ways to settle affairs, including custody issues. It helps to write down far ahead of any separation the expectations of material divisions and other desires. This can be negotiated until both parties are satisfied.
If the separation is contentious, both parties could agree to an arbitration or mediation process.
Going to court should only be considered a last resort. If you wish to pursue a suit, know that courts have frequently been hostile to both parties, and the only ones who are guaranteed to leave a court with money are the lawyers.
Once a separation seems inevitable, these steps would help toward a relationship dissolution:
Immediately separate all financial entanglements, such as joint credit cards, phone and other utility bills.
Make photocopies of all important deeds, wills, relationship agreements, etc. Keep the originals. If there are lawyers involved, they get the copies.
Depending on how emotions are between a couple, use persuasion to be treated fairly, or use a neutral third party (clergy, family friend) to facilitate negotiations.
Some lawyers suggest following similar procedures that divorcing opposite-sex couples follow; such as giving 60 percent of jointly-owned property sales to the homemaker, or the party with the lesser income potential.
If a property, such as a car or house, is co-deeded — usually using the phrase on the deed: “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship” — splitting it does not depend on having any sort of spousal status.
If not jointly deeded, is important to have some form of spousal documentation of the relationship — such as, wills, powers of attorney, domestic partnership registration, Civil Union.
If you have a legal marriage — and are lucky enough to live in the issuing state, or a state that recognizes legal marriage — most of the procedures for a legal divorce may be applied.
Please see our article:
Advice to Lawyers for Worst Case Scenario Breakups by Frederick C. Hertz, attorney.
This organization offers legal advice, representation and publications for lesbian and gay men facing orientation discrimination; technical assistance to attorneys; telephone advice and counseling:
National Center for Lesbian Rights
870 Market St., #570, San Francisco, CA 94102-3012
415-392-6257; fax 415-392-8442; email@example.com
Every major U.S. city has a gay/lesbian business association with members who are counselors and legal advisors. Also consider the gay newspaper ads for legal and emotional assistance.