Last month, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that the state’s courts have jurisdiction to grant the divorce of a same-sex Wyoming couple who legally married in Canada.
This decision slightly enhanced the rights of same-sex couples in Wyoming, but does not address the more controversial issue of whether Wyoming will permit same-sex couples to marry. Wyoming law defines marriage, in part, as a civil contract between a male and a female person. It also provides that all valid, out-of-state marriage contracts are valid in Wyoming. However, this rule is not absolute and is subject to certain recognized exceptions, such as marriages that are deemed contrary to the law of nature, such as polygamous and incestuous marriages, and those which the legislature of the state has declared shall not be allowed any validity because they are contrary to the policy of its laws.
In its opinion, the Wyoming Supreme Court took great care in ensuring the decision was sufficiently narrow, and expressly limited its decision to the issue of divorce in a footnote: “Nothing in this opinion should be taken as applying to the recognition of same-sex marriages legally solemnized in a foreign jurisdiction in any context other than divorce. The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day.” Christiansen v. Christiansen, 2011 WY 90 (2011). Recognizing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for the limited purpose of divorce, however, does not negate the law or policy in Wyoming against allowing the creation of same-sex marriages.
Same-sex marriage was, and continues to be a developing area of family law. New York first considered a similar case in early 2008 when a judge granted a divorce to a same-sex couple married in Canada.
In an effort to simplify the separation process for same-sex couples, the California Legislature recently made significant amendments to the governing law. The State Assembly adopted the Separation Equity Act of 2010 which clarified that same sex couples married outside the state are able to dissolve their marriage in California. Additionally, same-sex couples who married during the brief period in 2008 when it was legal will have the rights and benefits of married couples, including divorce.
If you have a family law matter and are interested in learning more on the law governing same-sex marriage or divorce in California, please contact the experienced Family Law attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.