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Austin TX Family Law Blog

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reluctant Texas County Grants First Same-Sex Divorce

With the nationalization of same-sex marriage, are spouses also guaranteed equal rights to the divorce process?

In June, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which opened the doors for same-sex marriage in all 50 states. For states like Texas, which did not officially recognize marriage between same-sex partners, this ruling clarified the status of marriage as a fundamental right that cannot be denied to consenting, unrelated, unmarried adults – regardless of their gender.

With that issue out of the way, the ruling also brought to light another seemingly fundamental right within the marriage context: divorce. Intuitively, same-sex partners who are now allowed to marry should also be allowed equal access to divorce, right? Well, for one Texas county, the dissolution journey was a long one – and finally reached its conclusion in August, 2015.

Several years ago, two current Tarrant County women were lawfully wed in New Hampshire – a state which has recognized same-sex marriage for several years. After moving from the Northeast to the Fort Worth area, the couple opted to split – and filed the requisite paperwork to seek a divorce. Problem was that, at the time, Texas did not recognize same-sex marriage – and accordingly refused to grant a same-sex divorce. Moreover, the spouses tried an alternative option known as annulment – which nullifies a marriage as if it never took place. Unfortunately, this attempt was also struck down by the county court, prompting the women to appeal the rulings.

After nearly four years of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell finally solidified the notion that a state required to issue same-sex marriage licenses is also compelled to issue same-sex dissolutions – paving the way for equality in both marriage and divorce.

If you are considering a divorce and would like to discuss your options under current Texas law, please do not hesitate our experienced and dedicated family attorneys at Stinson Moyle, PLLC today: 512.320.9070.


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