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Pennsylvania property division tough for same-sex couples

The right to divorce should accompany the right to marry; at least that is the stance taken by one outspoken Pennsylvania resident. The woman, who married her wife in 2008 in Massachusetts, has found that obtaining a same-sex divorce in her state of residence is far more difficult than she imagined. Pennsylvania simply does not have the legal infrastructure required to support same-sex division. Since couples cannot legally marry in that state, they also cannot legally divorce.

Now, the woman and an enthusiastic state representative are pushing for better laws to govern same-sex marriage in the state. Divorces are difficult for same-sex and mixed-gender couples, according to Rep. Mike Scholssberg, who contends that everyone should have the right to legally dissolve their marriages. He has even proposed legislation to that effect. The woman in this case could benefit from such a measure. She is unable to divorce her wife in the state in which they were married -- divorce in Massachusetts requires couples to live in that state for at least a year.

Schlossberg contends that eliminating the "divorce trap" from Pennsylvania's law books would help same-sex couples pursue additional property division and family law decisions with the help of an attorney. Child custody and alimony negotiations would be made available, and additional conversations could be had about equitable division of marital property. As it stands, there is no legal mandate requiring couples to split their marital property fairly.

Pennsylvania would not be the first state to offer only same-sex divorces; both Colorado and Wyoming prohibit same-sex breakups, even though such marriage is barred in those jurisdictions. The fact remains that property division is a critical component of divorce. Without adequate legal infrastructure, couples are left to sort out their own affairs, which can be difficult if the relationship has turned contentious. Same-sex couples could have access to the same legal protections provided to mixed-gender couples during a divorce proceeding.

Source: Lehigh Valley Live, "Allentown woman's experience leads to same-sex divorce law proposal" Colin McEvoy, Apr. 08, 2014

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