Recent news has been dominated by two headline-grabbing cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court that center around same-sex marriage. Although same-sex couples cannot legally marry in Texas, the rulings still have potential to impact the nature of family law in our state.
The first case heard by the high court is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved measure that banned same-sex marriage. One route the justices could take is to assert that all same-sex marriage bans are a violation of the federal Constitution. This, in effect, would cause nationwide bans, including Texas’ current law, to become invalid. Not only would this allow same-sex couples to get married throughout the country, but it would create a legal framework for divorce based on state laws.
Beyond state marriage laws, the Supreme Court also heard a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law that prevents same-sex couples from taking advantage of federal benefits even if they are legally married. If this law is struck down, it could open the door to a number of family law issues for legally married same-sex spouses. For example, if a person earns a federal pension, it could become the subject of property division in divorce.
The expectation is that no official ruling will be made until June. Until that time, pundits will continue to speculate about what the outcome will be. However, where does that leave Austin residents who have family law questions in the mean time?
Although domestic partnerships agreements are not subject to the same laws as a legal marriage, same-sex couples can establish the arrangement to take care of many of the legal issues addressed in divorce. The hope is that this kind of agreement can settle important questions while ensuring everyone affected by the split is treated in an equitable manner.
Source: The New York Times, “How the Court Could Rule on Same-Sex Marriage,” Adam Liptak and Alicia Parlapiano, March 23, 2013
Our firm has the experience necessary to help same-sex couples sort through family law issues. To find out more, please visit our Austin domestic partnership agreement page.