Divorce and Same-Sex Couples

The news has been increasingly focused on the legal circumstances of same-sex marriage while overlooking the even more complex situation of same-sex divorce.

1. Counting the number of same-sex couples is difficult, but trying to count the number of dissolutions is even more difficult.  The best report with the most current data was developed by Gates, Badgett and Ho in 2008 in which they report that about 2% of same-sex couples dissolve their marriages and/or unions on an annual basis.  This is similar to the rate of divorce among opposite-sex couples.

2. To get a better picture of the divorce process for same-sex couples, Brad van Eeden-Moorefield, Christopher Martell, Mark Williams, and Marilyn Preston recently published a synthesis and analysis of the research on dissolution among same-sex couples in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

They report that many of the factors that contribute to the dissolution of opposite-sex relationships seem to operate in same-sex relationships.  In studies completed in the 1990s, same-sex couples dissolved their relationships for reasons that seem similar to opposite-sex couples including nonresponsiveness, substance abuse and sexual issues.  Likewise, they reported a range of emotional reactions both positive and negative.  The one area in which there seems to be differences in between same- and opposite-sex couples is in negotiating infidelity.  The scientists write, “romantic affairs outside of the primary relationship seem to constitute infidelity in same-sex as well as heterosexual couples, having sex outside of the relationship is not considered a breach of trust by all couples.”  Same-sex couples, particularly gay couples, are more likely to negotiate sex outside of the relationship and in many cases this does not seem to be destabilizing to the relationship.

3.   The complications and confusions around handling assets and custody of children can be especially stressful and troubling to couples.  Colleen Ramais provides an analysis of these legal difficulties in an article in the Illinois Law Review that suggests some legal methods that states could use to resolve these challenges even without recognizing legalizing same-sex marriages. These policy options would benefit couples and their children.

For an extended discussion of this article see the post on Huffington Post….

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