Texas residents may be aware that state law does not recognize same-sex marriages, including those that are entered into in other states. However, these laws raise interesting questions regarding what happens when same-sex couples who legally married in other states seek to have their union dissolved in Texas.
One Tarrant County woman declared her intention to fight the state’s marriage laws, taking it all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, if necessary. The court has a handful of similar cases it is currently reviewing as well. The couple in question lives in Texas but legally married in New Hampshire in 2010. They separated during the summer of 2013. One of the spouses now challenges state laws forcing her to choose between remaining married or having her relationship declared void. The other spouse stated that she is comfortable having the marriage voided as a practical solution.
Current Texas law provides that a heterosexual married couple may file for divorce and have their marriage dissolved in as few as 60 days. However, same-sex couples are not permitted to file for divorce. Instead, they must file a petition to have their marriage declared void. A voided marriage does not grant parties the same rights as a divorce. For example, if a marriage is declared void, the spouses would not have the same community property rights they would have in a divorce. They also would not be entitled to any benefits conferred by state or federal law, including the right to receive social security benefits based on the former spouse’s record.
When same-sex couples seek to dissolve their marriage, an attorney may be able to help make the process run more smoothly. It may be possible to negotiate a contract dividing property jointly acquired by the spouses or determining spousal support.
Source: CBS DFW, “1st Same Sex Divorce Case Headed To North Texas Court“, Jennifer Lindgren, May 15, 2014