Different Marriage Laws Lead To Costly Confusion For Gay Couples

When the right to make a commitment to a same-sex partner varies from state to state, and when laws protecting the rights of same-sex couples seem vulnerable, it can make for a confusing legal and family landscape. When same-sex couples want to dissolve their unions, they face various financial tangles that they would not need to consider if their union received recognition from all state governments as well as the federal government.

In one New Jersey case, a couple’s civil union was dissolved and one partner was ordered to pay a large sum in spousal support. If this were a divorce involving a heterosexual couple the person who was making support payments would receive a tax deduction. Since the union was not federally recognized, the payer in this case gets no such deduction. That complication costs the woman several thousands of dollars a year.

Even when gay and lesbian couples in legal same-sex unions are destined to live happily ever after, there are various financial hoops they must go through, especially if they ever move to a state where their union is not recognized. Some set up special financial accounts where their partner is named as beneficiary. Many must prepare extra tax returns in order to find the best option for their given situation. Even financial experts and accountants can become quite confused, meaning any type of consulting or advice sometimes costs same-sex couples far more.

Those who advocate for marriage equality often do so claiming that love is love. Our laws, they argue, should not discriminate against any groups of people. But laws aren’t often made due to arguments of love. Until or unless the laws do become consistent from state to state or on the federal level, same-sex partners need to educate themselves and prepare their financials for various hypotheticals.

Source: Reuters, “In U.S., same-sex spouses may face financial tangles,” Temma Ehrenfeld, June 5, 2012