Same-sex marriage became legal in the State of New Jersey in 2013. Prior to that, legislation existed pursuant to the Domestic Partnership Act that afforded same-sex couples the same benefits and rights granted to married heterosexual couples. Such relationships were afforded the status of “civil union” rather than “marriage.”
Upon the legalization of same-sex marriage, couples were given the right to convert their civil unions to marriages. In those cases, the dissolution of a same-sex marriage mirrors the dissolution of a heterosexual marriage.
However, the failure to make the conversion may make the process of dissolving the civil union a bit more complicated. Although the dissolution of a civil union is very similar to that of a marriage, there are some important respects in which it differs. For instance, very notably, the Domestic Partnership Act does not list “irreconcilable differences” as a cause of action for dissolution. Notwithstanding same, a different section of New Jersey legislation, specifically N.J.S.A. 37:1-33, states that any laws referring to marital or spousal relationships also include partners in civil unions. Accordingly, it is still possible for a domestic partnership to be terminated on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
Regardless of the grounds utilized for the termination of either a same-sex marriage or a civil union, there are some unique issues that same-sex couples may face during the course of dissolution. For those couples who share children, it is imperative that they understand their legal rights concerning child custody and parenting time for non-biological or non-adoptive parents, as well as the potential child support obligations for non-biological or non-adoptive parents.
If you have any questions that pertain to any of the above issues, you need to contact an experienced attorney who will help navigate this potentially complex area of law. Contact Birz Law, LLC at (201) 701-1218 to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your rights.