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Help, I'm Married and I Can't Get a Divorce!

Tonight's post is from Lindsey Harrison, one of our fine attorneys at The Manely Firm, P.C.

Most people don't think about the applicable divorce laws when selecting a location to tie the knot. Maybe they should.

I recently helped a woman who had married her girlfriend in Canada some years ago. After the marriage they both returned to their home in the United States to a state that does not recognize same sex unions. A few years later they split up and now each resides in a state that does not yet recognize same sex unions. I can imagine that you are scratching your head and thinking "what's the problem?" Well, the problem is that they are married whether their current state of residence acknowledges that status or not. Further, Canada requires that at least one party to a divorce to have lived in Canada for the proceeding year before filing for termination of the marriage or union.

So, though they are married, they cannot get a divorce in Georgia because Georgia does not recognize same sex marriages and they cannot get a divorce in Canada because neither has lived there in the past year. These two people, who do not want to be married anymore, cannot get a divorce anywhere.

Does it matter? Yes. While a person whose marriage is not recognized in Georgia could probably marry someone else in Georgia without breaking any Georgia laws, they still would be committing bigamy in the other states recognizing same sex unions and in the country that married them. Those United States states now number about a quarter of the states in our Union. The client would become a bigamist in about a quarter of the country.  It's quite a pickle!

My client's problem is not unique. Our neighbor to the north may well take heed. Canada is now considering new legislation to address this problem.

However, in the meantime, for those wishing to make their same sex union official in some exotic locale, please research the local divorce laws, too, to make sure that you won't be preventing yourself from divorcing your new spouse should the need arise. Remember, the divorce rate, for both heterosexual and same sex couples, is still pretty high. Don't leave yourself without any options.

Lindsey Harrison

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