Frequently Asked Questions About Same-Sex Marriage And Divorce Rights In Pennsylvania

  1. If I was married in another state prior to May 20, 2014, will my marriage be recognized in Pennsylvania?
    • Yes. If you married in another state, your marriage will now be recognized in Pennsylvania and you will have all the rights and obligations of opposite sex married couples under Pennsylvania law. There is no need to get married again here in Pennsylvania.
      • The same is true if you were married prior to October 21,2013 (the date New Jersey recognized equal rights) and now live in New Jersey.
  2. If I entered into a civil union or domestic partnership in another state prior to May 20, 2014, will my civil union or domestic partnership be recognized in Pennsylvania?
    • Probably not. The Pennsylvania case that made same-sex equality into law makes no reference to civil unions or domestic partnerships. So, it is unclear what, if any, recognition will be given to those statuses. If you and your partner want the rights of a married couple, you should legally wed. Additionally, the federal government does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships as the equivalent of marriage for federal tax purposes. You would still need to get married in order to file your taxes as "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately."
      • The same is true in New Jersey as well. Governor Christie dropped his appeal of the pending review of the law that would deny same-sex marriage and there was no mention of civil unions (granted in NJ in 2007).
  3. Can I obtain a divorce from a same-sex spouse?
    • Yes. Divorcing same-sex couples now have access to the Pennsylvania or New Jersey courts just as opposite-sex couples, with all the same rights and obligations as married couples under the Pennsylvania or New Jersey law depending in which state you live. Before October 21, 2013 and then May 20, 2014 couples who lived in either state were essentially "wed-locked" as they did not have access to the family law courts. Most often, parties wishing to divorce had to go to another state where the marriage was recognized, establish residency, and then proceed with the divorce process.
  4. What date should I list as the date of my marriage on documents and forms?
    • The date you were actually married, not the date Pennsylvania, New Jersey or the Supreme Court recognized the marriage.
  5. If I get married, can I change my last name to be the same as my spouse through the marriage license?
    • Yes. Just as an opposite-sex couple can complete their marriage license to reflect your desired last name, so now can same-sex couples.
  6. How does marriage affect my ability to ad my spouse's name to the deed of my house?
    • You can now add your new spouse's name to the deed of your house without incurring real estate transfer tax or needing to refinance your mortgage.
  7. If I have a Cohabitation Agreement with my partner and we then marry, is our agreement still valid?
    • No. Usually, a cohabitation agreement is voided by a subsequent marriage. If you want any of the terms from your prior agreement to carry over, it may be a smart idea to draft and sign a prenuptial agreement.
  8. Now that the SCOTUS has recognized same sex marriage across the nation, what does that mean for me?
    • This means that if you are a same-sex couple, you have the same rights and liberties to get married (or divorced) as an opposite sex couple. The only areas to recommend looking out for are in preparing for a marriage or preventing a divorce. Many states (including Pennsylvania and New Jersey) follow the doctrine of equitable distribution when dividing marital assets. This means that the date of marriage is now relevant and for some same-sex couples this is not always representative of the bulk of their relationships.

If you need an experienced family law attorney in the Philadelphia or Southern New Jersey area to help you review your rights in light of the same-sex equality Pennsylvania and New Jersey now afford, call Previtera & Schimmel at 800-580-9136 or use our online contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.