In 2014, Colorado’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. When they did, it gave those involved in same-sex relationships the right to marry. It also left many long-term couples questioning what impact, if any, that the elimination of the law from the books would have on them if they looked to split up.
Since gay marriage wasn’t recognized in Colorado until the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional in 2014, many same-sex couples simply lived together much like any other married couple for decades. Once the law was declared unconstitutional, it made legal analysts question whether these couples would be considered, by default, a party to a common law marriage.
Many heterosexual couples point to their use of the terms “husband” or “wife” to refer to one another or the fact that they file a joint tax return to establish that a marital relationship existed through “common law” rules, despite the absence of a marital ceremony. Same-sex couples, on the other hand, didn’t have the same option. Now, however, same-sex couples may be able to prove that they’ve been in a marital relationship by showing that they jointly own real estate or a bank account.
When the law was declared unconstitutional four years ago, it also called into question how custody matters involving children of same-sex couples would be handled. Up until this law was overturned, kids born to a married couple were automatically presumed to belong to both the mom and the dad. Same-sex couples that have been successful in having their marriage retroactively classified as official under common law may now enjoy the same assumptions that apply to heterosexuals.
Although the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional in Colorado a few years ago, many issues continue to arise that require judges to decide how to apply the law in a fair and just way. Same-sex couples who share kids and are looking to split up may benefit from first speaking with a Lakewood same-sex divorce attorney to gain a better understanding of the unique issues that may arise in a same-sex divorce case, including how it may affect their children and parenting rights.