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Pennsylvania same-sex couples struggle without legal divorce

Most Pennsylvania residents know that same-sex couples are not permitted to marry in the state -- but did you know that same-sex divorce is also illegal? This facet of state law can make child custody, property division and other family law issues a nightmare for same-sex couples who wish to dissolve their union. Advocates for same-sex rights say that the ability to divorce is nearly as important as the right to legally wed.

One Pennsylvania lawmaker is working to legalize divorce for same-sex couples in the state. Rep. Mike Schlossberg said he intends to present legislation to fix the "marriage trap" that affects same-sex couples who marry in other jurisdictions. In total, 17 states -- including New Jersey and Delaware -- allow same-sex couples to get married. When those couples return to Pennsylvania, however, they do not have access to the legal infrastructure that allows them to divorce. This can lead to a variety of family law issues.

Legislators say that it is possible to allow divorce to occur without legalizing same-sex marriage. States such as Wyoming have provisions that permit couples to go through the divorce process even though their marriages are not legally recognized. Schlossberg says he intends to submit a proposal in the state legislature, but the bill is really designed to start a dialogue about changing legal standards to support divorce for all couples.

Although divorce is currently not legal for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania, there are legal options to help decide alimony, child support and other family legal issues. Pennsylvania attorneys may be able to draft customized agreements that work outside of traditional marriage laws. These stop-gap measures will be required until state lawmakers finally approve same-sex divorce provisions.

Source: Newsworks, "Pa. lawmaker calling for 'divorce equality' for same-sex marriages made in other states" Mary Wilson, Apr. 15, 2014

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