From domestic partnership to gay marriage: a rocky transition?

Gay marriage may now be a constitutional right, but same-sex couples may still encounter obstacles at the state level. Fortunately, additional court decisions are helping to smooth the transition.

For example, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a state court’s denial of a same-sex parent’s request to recognize the adoption proceeding she had received with her former partner in a neighboring state. Distinct laws may govern adoption rights, but they fall under the umbrella of family law. Indeed, adoption questions can arise at many points in a family’s journey: before, during and after a marriage.

The legal justification for the Supreme Court’s decision was the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court explained that a neighboring state could not ignore the adoption in the neighboring state.

The decision also serves as a reminder to same-sex couples to update other aspects of their legal and financial portfolio. For example, the beneficiaries named in health insurance and retirement account policies should be updated. Contractual benefits may not automatically transfer to a newly married same-sex couple. Similarly, the transition to marital status from a domestic partnership status that was legally established under Maryland law can also involve many procedures. The rights may be similar, but not necessarily identical.

This is where the work of an attorney with a broad family law practice begins. An attorney can review a family’s lifestyle and current arrangements, offering advice to avoid redundancies and include easily forgotten planning aspects, such as estate planning.

Source: USA Today, "Supreme Court reverses Alabama court that denied lesbian woman's adoption," Richard Wolf, March 7, 2016