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Are same-sex divorces the same as traditional divorces?

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2022 | Custody

We all know that marriage equality is the law of the land, and by that same law, so is divorce equality. However, many same-sex couples thinking about divorce wonder if their divorce process will actually be the same as so-called, “traditional” divorces.


The LGBTQIA+ community fought for the better part of a century for marriage and divorce equality in the United States. It was a hard-fought battle where some lost their livelihoods and lives. This history creates a sense of guilt in some potential same-sex divorcees because they feel like they are violating or betraying that history.

As a society, there is also a stigma against same-sex divorce because it is much rarer than opposite-sex divorce. Indeed, there have been very few high-profile, same-sex divorces; same-sex divorce is not part of our national divorce conversations and same-sex divorce is largely unmentioned in popular media. This can make the idea of being a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, LGBTQIA+ isolating.

Child custody and support issues

Biologically, same-sex couples have a much harder path to parenthood than opposite-sex couples. And, in divorce, since child custody and support laws were designed for opposite-sex couples, same-sex divorcees have unique challenges.

For one, judges often give more weight to biological rights over adopted rights. As such, if one parent is the biological parent, they are often given primary custody. Even worse, for those parents who never officially adopted the child, they may lose out on child custody entirely. And, that Lancaster, Pennsylvania, judge would also likely not award child support in that scenario either.

Property division issues

Relatively speaking, since same-sex marriage and divorce are relatively new legal rights, while the relationship may be 20, 30 or 40 years long, the actual marriage may only be a few years old. For these couples, investment, retirement and other accounts, along with all other property, will be split very differently than in a traditional marriage, where those decades would have been part of the marriage.

For these Lancaster, Pennsylvania, couples, the retirement account’s owner may be awarded the value from all those decades prior to the marriage, and the other spouse only a split of the value earned during the marriage. This could be the same for investment accounts as well. Even the family home, if purchased prior to the marriage, may go to only one spouse.