Legal Blogs

Same-Sex Couples Can Marry in any State in the United States

As of June 26, 2015, same-sex couples can marry in any state in the United States. This is a result of the ruling by United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Justices found that state law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. As such, same-sex couples in California have the freedom to marry. Additionally, the court ruled that a denial of a marriage license to a same-sex couple violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Requirements for same-sex couples to marry in California are the same as for heterosexual couples. You and your partner must apply together for a marriage license from the office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of any California county. After obtaining a marriage license, in order for your marriage to be valid, California law requires the marriage ceremony to be performed by someone authorized to solemnize marriages in California. Such persons can include a judge, a clergy member, of a friend deputized to perform their marriage ceremony through a county “Deputy Commissioner for a Day” program. The specific requirements vary by county.   A marriage license is only valid for 90 days after obtaining it. As such, your ceremony must take place within 90 days of obtaining the license. A County official may also be able to perform your marriage at the county office on the same day you obtain a marriage license. However, this varies from county to county.

Further requirements for a valid marriage include the return to the County Clerk’s office of the completed and signed marriage license by the person authorized to solemnize your marriage in California and by at least 1 witness over the age of 18. This must be done within 10 days of the ceremony.

Because a same-sex marriage is now recognized as a legally valid marriage, the only way to terminate the relationship is by divorce. The same rules and requirements for divorce that apply to heterosexual couples apply to same-sex couples.

In order to divorce in California, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of California for at least six months, and a resident of the county in which the divorce is filed for three months, before filing a divorce petition. Support, both spousal support and child support are available to same sex couples, as well as the division of community property. Fiduciary spousal duties applicable in heterosexual marriages also apply to same-sex marriage. Therefore, you and your spouse will be required to deal with each other in the good faith, provide full disclosures of assets, liabilities, finances, and opportunities available to the community.   Custody orders will be made using the “best interest of the child” standard, and timeshare schedules can also be ordered for any children of the marriage, regardless of whether the children are adopted, surrogate or biological children of the spouses.

There are some unique rules that apply to same-sex couples. For example, Registered Domestic Partners (RDP) do not have to dissolve their legal relationship if they marry the same person. California domestic partnership statutes permit individuals to be married and, in a registered domestic partnership as long as they are married to the same person.

If you are in a registered domestic partnership and decide to marry your RDP, you and your partner must meet all the same legal and formal steps required by any other couple in California who want to be legally married. However, if you were in a legal relationship (registered partner, civil union) with a former partner you cannot marry your current partner until you formally dissolve or terminate the first legal relationship. A marriage to your new partner will be invalid if you are in a civil union or registered domestic partnership with another person.

At Brown & Charbonneau we are ready to consult with you and assist you with any domestic issues you may be encountering, be it termination of a legal relationship with a former partner so you can go forward with your marriage, custody issues, support issues or termination of your marriage.