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Same-sex issues in Missouri family law are complicated

Issues that same-sex couples face in today’s changing legal world have been making the news in recent years. Many people in Columbia, Missouri, may be aware that the United States Supreme Court ruled this past summer that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The law purported to bar the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. But, family law issues are generally a matter for state laws.

Today’s culture may be changing in many ways—same-sex couples may seek to adopt a child. More and more states are also changing the law to allow for same-sex marriages. Many people who live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages may travel to states that do--like our neighboring state Iowa -- to become legally married. Another neighboring state, Illinois, is poised to change its laws to recognize same-sex marriages as well.

Heterosexual couples who marry in other states and move to Missouri (or those Missouri residents who decide to elope or marry in Las Vegas for that matter) may generally expect to have access to the family court system in Missouri. But, because our state does not recognize same-sex marriage, many commentators say that Missouri courts cannot grant a divorce.

That can create difficulties for same-sex couples who live in Missouri who have been legally married in other states and decide to seek a divorce. States generally have residency requirements (which vary from state to state) embedded in the laws surrounding divorce. That means a person in a same-sex marriage would have to satisfy the residency requirements of a state that recognizes same-sex marriages to qualify for access to divorce court.

It may seem counter-intuitive that states recognize different sex marriages from other states but in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage the issue becomes problematic. A Columbia resident is hoping that a Missouri judge may rule that because the state does not recognize same-sex marriages, the court will rule that her marriage is null and void under Missouri law, according to KMOX News.

Source: KMOX, “The Curious Case of Same-Sex Divorces in Missouri Courts,” Nov. 12, 2013

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