Same Sex Couples
In Massachusetts (and now through the United States), same-sex couples have full marriage rights. This has created a great benefit, one of which is that the rules of divorce and inheritance now apply to same-sex couples. However, the same rights are not available or recognized in every state. Understanding these differences is important when addressing the needs of same-sex couples.
Some same-sex couples choose to not marry, just as some opposite-sex couples. Mediation is an optimal way to address ongoing relationship agreements as well as termination of marriage / dissolution of relationship issues between same-sex couples who decide to break up.
Throughout the mediation process, many issues may be discussed including:
- Same Sex Marital Mediation
- Domestic Partnerships
- Civil Union Agreements
- Child Custody
- Cohabitation Agreements
Same Sex Marital Mediation: Mediation is an excellent way for same-sex partners who are married to come to agreement about the terms of their marriage. This can be done with mediation services provided by a marriage mediator as a neutral facilitator in a private setting either before the marriage or after the marriage has commenced with a postnuptial agreement.
Using mediation has the benefit of discussing issues face to face in a private setting with a facilitator trained in the issues of marriage and divorce. Mediation can prevent misunderstandings from developing, and help partners and spouses become clear about their goals and expectations.
Domestic Partnerships: In some countries (and formerly in some states in the United States), same-sex marriage is unavailable, but couples are able to enter into domestic partnerships. The laws regarding what this means vary depending on where the partnership is registered. There are some couples still in a Massachusetts domestic partnership who have chosen not to marry. These couples can use the services of a family mediator to help them come to decisions as to the terms for their relationship. This can be memorialized in a domestic partnership agreement.
Civil Union Agreements: Massachusetts is one of the states permitting full marriage rights to same-sex couples. There is therefore no Massachusetts civil union under Massachusetts laws. Other countries have enacted civil union statutes that incorporate some or all of the laws relating to “marriage” under a different name. A couple that wishes to further define the terms of their civil union can work with a family mediator to facilitate their discussion, explore options, and come to agreement. An agreement created during marital mediation can help limit conflict and litigation in the future.
When couple wishes to dissolve their civil union, mediation is an excellent way to come to terms without resort to court litigation. In a private, confidential setting, with the help of a family mediator, the partners can address concerns, develop solutions, and come to agreements.
Child Custody: A significant and growing proportion of same-sex couples, both women and men, have children in their households. When their marriage or cohabitation ends, difficult problems and conflicts may be raised about custody, and sometimes, parentage.
Same-sex partners who value the interests of their children will first try to address parenting issues, including support, visitation, and custody, outside of court. The benefits of child custody mediation for the children are enormous. Using the services of a family mediator will be a good step for a couple to address the needs of their children and their future loving participation and connection in their children’s lives.
Cohabitation Agreements: Same-sex couples choosing to live together without marriage do so for all sorts of reasons. While some of these couples eventually marry, or enter into civil unions in other states, some do not. Although Massachusetts does not have “palimony” laws, break ups between cohabiting couples can be very messy, leading to protected and complex litigation.
Cohabiting same-sex couples may choose to make written agreements. These can address the day-to-day duties of their living together. In addition, cohabitation agreements can determine what happens if they break up.
If a cohabiting same-sex couple marries, the cohabitation agreement may no longer be valid or enforceable. A prenuptial agreement will be necessary if they wish to vary the terms of Massachusetts laws pertaining to marriage. A family mediator is in an excellent position to help the couple formulate a cohabitation agreement, and in the case of later marriage, a prenuptial agreement, if that is what the couple wants.