As the Baltimore Sun reports, the Maryland Senate approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act on Thursday, February 25, 2011, which would allow same-sex couples to wed. Although the House of Delegates still needs to pass the Act, the Senate’s passage is still “historic.” We have previously blogged about the issues that surround the recognition of same-sex marriages in Maryland, specifically the Attorney General’s support of recognizing same sex marriages created validly in other states maryland and Maryland lawmakers attempt to block gay marriages. With this Act being passed by the Senate, it is time for us to prepare for changes we may see in our divorce and family law practice with the allowance of same-sex marriage.
The potential changes are vast but include the changes that we will see in custody and visitation law. Often same-sex couples adopt a child, however when couples are not married, only one partner is usually the legally recognized adopted parent. When these relationships end, the child is left with one legal parent and one who is presently recognized as a third party (not a parent) in the State of Maryland. For more information on the third party status that same sex parents currently face see our November 27, 2009 blog. With the passage of this legislation, same-sex couples who marry and adopt a child will both be the legal parents of the child and will be recognized as same should the marital relationship end in separation and/or divorce.
Additionally, same sex couples would be able to enter into pre-nuptial agreements just as heterosexual couples; would be considered a spouse in the event their partner dies, thus entitling them to protections and distribution under our estates and trusts article; will be able to be divorced in the state of Maryland regardless of whether married in Maryland of outside of the State; would able afforded the same protections as heterosexual married individuals in a divorce proceeding, specifically with respect to custody issues, child support issues, alimony issues, marital property awards, division of retirement assets, use and possession of family home and personal property if there is a child, and division of personal property; will be permitted to title their homes as tenants by the entireties, which is a titling only designated to married couples; depending on the employer, married same sex couples would be able to cover their spouse on their health insurance plans; and would be permitted to change their last names upon marriage rather than petitioning the court for a change of name.
For more information regarding Maryland divorce proceedings contact an experienced Maryland Divorce Attorney.