You and your spouse have been together for decades — long before you could legally marry. If you lived in a state that offered domestic partnerships and/or civil unions for same-sex couples, you may have chosen one (or eventually both) of these options to make your partnership official in the eyes of the state where you were living. Then, when you were able to, you got married. In Colorado, that was one year before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country.
Now, like so many married couples, gay and straight, you’ve decided to go your separate ways. If you had one (or both) of these other types of legal unions prior to your marriage, you may need to take steps to dissolve them in addition to getting a divorce. If you don’t, you could face legal obstacles if you remarry. A legal union that’s still valid could also cause complications in dividing up your property with your spouse.
A family law attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) says, “Many of the issues related to the dissolution of civil unions and domestic partnerships were resolved after 2015, but some serious issues still remain.” What you need to do depends in part on in what state you had a legal union. Some states have specific criteria that couples who no longer live there need to meet to dissolve those relationships. Other states automatically converted these unions to marriages.
As another attorney who works with same-sex couples notes, courts don’t always have clear legal precedent for determining whether property acquired while a couple was in a domestic partnership or civil union is considered joint property for the purposes of dividing it or whether joint property is only that acquired after the couple was married.
If you and your spouse are divorcing, it’s essential to inform your Colorado family law attorney of any previous legal iterations of your relationship you had — even if you’re certain that they’re no longer valid. Your attorney can help you determine whether you need to take any steps to dissolve those along with the divorce. Then you can move on with your life and possibly to another marriage later on down the line without concerns that these unions will come back to haunt you.