Family Law

DOMA ruling may benefit gays seeking divorces


The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a law denying federal benefits to same-sex married couples may also benefit gays seeking a divorce.

The court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in the case of Edith Windsor, who had to pay an estate tax of about $360,000 because her same-sex marriage in Canada was not recognized under DOMA.

Divorcing gay couples will also see tax benefits, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch and Forbes. When dividing their assets, they won’t have to pay gift or income taxes, and the wealthier spouse will be able to deduct alimony payments.

One problem remains, however, according to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Many states that still ban gay marriage also ban gay divorce. Divorcing couples living in states that don’t recognize gay marriages often can’t return to the state of their marriage to get a divorce because of residency requirements.

That could change, according to Elizabeth Schwartz, a Florida lawyer and gay-rights advocate. The broad language in the DOMA decision, United States v. Windsor, may be used to challenge state bans on gay marriages, which could also benefit those seeking same-sex divorces, she told the Times.

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