As with so many things in the law, the June 26 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legally recognizing same-sex marriage is not the end of the story. In many ways it is only one waypoint in a long and complicated legal course.
That may be especially true here in Texas. As some legal observers have begun to point out, just because the issue of marriage appears to be settled, it doesn’t mean that all family law-related issues have magically been cleared up.
For starters, there is the question of timing. That is, since the decision by the Supreme Court came down June 26, does that mean recognition extends to any marriages that took place legally prior to that date? Does recognition only begin on that date?
The answer to those questions can be expected to have significant impact on decisions related to division of property if a same-sex couple now seeks to divorce. Texas is a community property state. That means property acquired during a marriage belongs to both spouses and must be divided fairly if they divorce. But if a long-wedded same-sex couple’s marriage is only recognized as of the date of the high court’s decision, that could result in a lot of assets being excluded from division.
Some observers say the ruling will likely benefit children of same-sex couples. Both adults can now become the legal parents of the children. Prior to the high court’s decision, Texas would only allow one partner to adopt. The other would have no legal standing as a parent or obligation to child support in the event the couple split up. That should now change.
It’s clear that the advent of legal same-sex marriage creates more questions than it answers. All of them need to be answered and that will happen case by case. Anytime questions regarding family law issues arise, it’s best to consult with experienced legal counsel to determine what course to take.
Source: Texas Lawyer, “Same-Sex Marriage Is Sea Change in Family Law,” Angela Morris, July 2, 2015