A few months ago, we discussed here on this blog how important it is for same-sex couples who are divorcing to ensure that any prior legal unions, no matter what state they were entered into, are dissolved. Failing to do so can cause complications for couples who want to make a clean break and go their separate ways. However, what if you were never legally married?
Back in 2003, before gay marriage was legal in the state, two men had a commitment ceremony. Last year, when one of the men, a former Navy pilot, who lives in Denver, ended the relationship, his partner sued him, seeking financial support.
A Colorado judge determined that the commitment ceremony constituted a legal marriage and that the two men had to divorce to officially end it. The former fighter pilot was ordered to pay his ex-partner spousal support because he had been the one paying the bulk of the bills while they were together. He acknowledges that he did pay the mortgage as well as other expenses. However, he notes that the two never jointly owned a house or car and didn't file joint tax returns.
The pilot says he can't afford to appeal the judge's decision. However, he fears that the ruling could be used as a precedent for other courts to require gay couples to divorce and for some partners to be required to pay alimony, even though they were never legally married or even had a relationship that could be considered a common law marriage.
If you're ending a relationship that was never legally a marriage and you have any questions or concerns about potential legal or financial obligations to your partner moving forward, about property division or other matters, it's wise to seek the guidance of a Colorado attorney with experience handling same-sex family law issues.