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Same-Sex Couple in Missouri Granted a Divorce

By Jeffrey Knipmeyer on May 12, 2014

In a divorce case that may prove to be a shot across the bow to other states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, a judge in Missouri granted a married gay couple a divorce. What makes this case unusual is that Missouri passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The couple in question was married in Massachusetts in 2009, but lived in Columbia, Missouri. The Boone County Circuit judge who granted the divorce stated that under the legal doctrine of “comity” (the recognition of the laws of another jurisdiction), that Missouri could grant the divorce “for the limited purpose of granting equitable relief.”

The judge made this ruling despite the fact that Missouri’s Defense of Marriage Act does not allow the courts to recognize same-sex marriage in the state. Citing precedents where Missouri courts have made judgments concerning marriages that were not considered valid to begin with, the judge stated that the state’s courts maintain “an authority to enter judgment with respect to marriage that is not legally recognized.”

The judge went further, saying that not granting the divorce would have run afoul of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that U.S. citizens have the right to due process and equal protection of the laws.

Under Massachusetts’ law, the couple would not have been able to return to the state to get a divorce without first re-establishing residency.

According to legal experts, this was the first divorce granted to a same-sex couple in Missouri. In a previous case, an annulment was granted to a same-sex couple in the state, but an annulment is different because it effectively means that a marriage never happened in the first place. A divorce will allow the couple to access the legal system to decide such things as child custody and the splitting of assets.

Illinois will officially recognize same-sex marriage in less than a month on June 1.

Sometimes a marriage doesn’t work out, whether it is a same-sex marriage or an opposite-sex marriage. In either case, you need an experienced family law firm that can assure that your legal rights are protected. The family law attorneys at Nottage & Ward in Chicago can provide the steady legal counsel you need during a very stressful time in your life. Call (312) 332-2915 or contact us online today to find out how we can help you.

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