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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

TN appeals court orders right of same-sex couple to divorce

With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, the implication for many was that legally married same-sex couples also gained the right to divorce. That now appears to be the law in Tennessee, after a state court of appeals reversed a lower-court decision denying a couple’s request to get divorced.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, many states that did not grant same-sex marriages declined to accept divorce filings from same-sex couples, even if they were legally married in states that granted such unions. The thinking often was that, by granting a divorce to a same-sex couple, a state would be implicitly recognizing the marriage as legitimate, which might have paved the way to full same-sex marriage rights there.

Thus, when two men who got married in Iowa in 2010 filed for divorce in Tennessee in August 2014, the judge ruled that he could not grant them a divorce. Perhaps recognizing that the law on this subject was changing, the judge suggested that a higher court ruling would be needed, and one of the spouses appealed.

According to WBIR-TV, the Supreme Court decision came down while the man’s appeal was still pending. Since that ruling overturned the definition of marriage as had previously been applied in Tennessee law, the appellate court ruled that the original ruling was out of date. The three-judge panel sent the case back to the trial judge’s court for “further proceedings” under the new law.

Many aspects of family law have stayed the same for decades, but other things continue to change. It is important that your divorce attorney keep on top of new legal developments.

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