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One difference that can complicate a same-sex divorce

When the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage has the same protections as opposite-sex marriages, couples who had been together for years without the legal right to marry were finally able to codify their relationships.

With federal recognition of same-sex marriages, committed same-sex couples gained access to employment benefits and legal protections that many heterosexual married couples have long taken for granted.

The right to marry has also come with the right to divorce when the relationship starts to fall apart. For the most part, the rules are exactly the same for couples divorcing in Texas regardless of the sex of the people involved. Most of the laws don’t have sex-specific language. However, there is a notable difference between many long-term same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships of the same length. That difference could make divorce a bit more complicated.

Your relationship may have started long before you could get married

Same-sex couples with a long-term commitment to each other could have been living together and sharing finances for years or even decades before they had the legal right to marry in Texas. Typically, the divorce court will only divide community property owned by both spouses, often because they earn or acquired during the marriage. Partners don’t have to share their separate property from before the marriage unless there are issues with commingling.

However, income and assets going back for years before same-sex marriage was legal could potentially be considered shared or marital property. If people in a same-sex relationship lived as spouses, shared finances and supported each other, property accumulated before they could legally marry might actually be community property subject to division.

If you and your spouse are in this situation and you can’t agree about what to do with your property when you divorce, you may need help with property division negotiations and other unique issues that can affect same-sex divorces.