While Mississippi's LGBTQ community celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's decision making same-sex marriage legal in the state, it was only the beginning of legal complications for many couples, especially those who had already traveled to other states to tie the knot. The complications they face include:
- Finding out a marriage that Mississippi said was invalid is now valid
- Attempting to divorce years after a relationship has ended
- Determing what the parental rights are to a child born of the marriage or raised jointly for many years
- Determining the length of the marriage for purposes of asset division and alimony
Family law matters are complicated enough without adding these extra legal headaches, so individuals are finding themselves in a true legal mess.
A real life example of the legal complications LGBTQ couples face
NBC News recently published a feature story about one of our clients, a 43-year-old Mississippi woman who traveled to Massachusetts with her same-sex partner in 2009 to get married.
The two had adopted a son two years before, but Mississippi law only allowed one of the women to be named on the birth certificate because same-sex adoption was not permitted. Our client, though she considered herself to be the boy's parent, never legally adopted the child.
The couple welcomed another son through in vitro fertilization two years later, but only one of the women could be included on the child's birth certificate since Mississippi did not recognize their marriage. Our client's parental relationship was, again, overlooked by the state.
Now the couple has ended their relationship and is going through a complicated divorce. Complicated, in one way, because our client is fighting for shared custody of the two sons she has parented all along, but was never recognized as a parent to under the law.
The case -- which you can read more about in the NBC News story here -- seems like it would be rare, but unfortunately it is not.
Words of caution for same-sex couples with family law issues
Many same-sex couples throughout the state have faced problems similar to the ones described above. Even though same-sex marriage and divorce is now viewed exactly the same as opposite-sex marriage and divorce under the law, Mississippi's previous ban on same-sex marriage can add layer upon layer of legal complexities.
Any LGBTQ individual going through a family law matter such as divorce, child custody or adoption will need to work with an attorney who has experience handling LGBTQ family law matters.
Sometime in the future, marriage will truly just be marriage, and divorce will truly just be divorce, no matter if the couple is gay or straight. But we haven't reached that point yet, which is why it is absolutely necessary to work with a lawyer who knows how to advocate for your rights as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Please let us know if we can help you. To us, you are family.