Untying the Same-Sex Knot: Gay Couples Get Divorced, Too


Untying the Same-Sex Knot: Gay Couples Get Divorced, Too

Two women, who were among the 14 same-sex couples who challenged California’s gay marriage ban in 2008, are currently seeking a divorce. Many experts and observers have pointed out that the right to marry must also be tied to the right to end a marriage, and this couple’s struggles seem to embody this truth.

Diane Olson and Robin Tyler were prompted to seek a divorce after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found California’s gay marriage bans unconstitutional. On January 25, Tyler filed for divorce from her partner, stating that the marriage had “run its course.” The couple has known each other for 40 years and were together for 18 years prior to the divorce action.

For seven years, they have been seeking a marriage license. Finally, they were recognized as a legally married couple. However, by the time their marriage was acknowledged, the couple was ready to seek an end to their marriage. Now, the couple will divide their assets and agree on other issues, although there has been no word as to how property division will be applied in this case.

Gay marriage has opened a firestorm of questions about issues such as property division, child custody and other problems facing heterosexual married couples. Because both couples are of the same sex, the “old-fashioned” assumptions about the proper person for child custody and who should pay support are non-existent, and courts must make determinations based solely on other evidence.

This may mean a gradual improvement for many men in terms of surviving a divorce financially and socially intact. While men are often affected by archaic laws and assumptions surrounding the granting of child custody, child support, alimony and other benefits to women, same-sex marriage and divorce may force courts to look at the entire question of marriage differently.

On the other hand, many people believe that a new “dual system” may arise in which gays and straights are treated differently when they arrive in divorce court. It may be that judges will differentiate between couples who have children and those who do not, or that same-sex partners will be subject to less stringent property division rules.

A family law attorney may represent a man who is facing these issues and help him protect his rights no matter what the final resolution of questions about same-sex or heterosexual marriage laws turns out to be.

Source: US News, “’Poster couple’ for gay rights in California is divorcing,” Irene Moore and Cary Berglund, February 8, 2013.

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