Attorney Adam L. Seidel is former president of the Dallas LGBT Bar Association and a charter member of the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce. He has represented many clients in North Texas needing assistance with same-sex family law matters.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell, ruling that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all states,” and requiring that all states, including Texas, recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The Effects Of The Decision
Because the Supreme Court ruled that there is a constitutional right to marry, states have a legal obligation to perform same-sex marriage, making marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states.
Nationally, employers have begun reviewing their benefit plans and policies to determine whether updates are appropriate in light of Obergefell. For example, employers who currently provide “domestic partner” benefits programs are examining such programs, now that same-sex couples have the right to marry and have their marriage recognized throughout the country.
Many same-sex couples, lawfully married in other states or countries, currently live in Texas and were previously unable to file for divorce in Texas. The rulings in Obergefell directly impact these couples. Married, same-sex couples in Texas can now be subject to the same laws relating to property division, child custody, spousal support, and other areas of family law. As in all family court matters, collaborative law and mediation also remain good avenues to consider in resolving same-sex couple disputes.
Same-Sex Divorce And Common Law Marriage
Texas law provides for informal marriage, also called “common-law” marriage. Courts have started to see same-sex partners making marital claims by relying on the assertion that long-term relationships should be recognized as “common-law marriages.” Some Texas courts have started to recognize common-law, same-sex marriages, even prior to the Obergefell decision. This issue is being litigated right now, and remains far from being completely resolved.