In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, there have been many talks surrounding the economic impact of not only same sex marriage, but same sex divorce as well. The overall process of learning and understanding how to implement the new regulations are proving to be harder and more expensive then originally anticipated. As the laws are being sorted out, the number of lawyers equipped to handle same sex divorce is still relatively small making them very expensive.
As there are still many states that don’t recognize same sex marriage, it makes getting divorced even more complicated. There are two options for those same sex couples that move from a state that recognizes their marriage to one that doesn’t and they are both very costly. In states that don’t recognize same sex marriage there is no option for same sex couples to get a traditional divorce. Their first option is to move back to the state where they were originally married and get divorced there or dissolve their marriage. Though picking up and taking residency in a place that you previously move from can be costly so can dissolving a marriage. Dissolution of a same sex marriage normally entails filing civil lawsuits or in many cases multiple lawsuits. This can causes lawyer fees to add up, costing both partners thousands of dollars.
On average the traditional divorce of a same sex couple is about twice that of an opposite sex couple. It was found that most same sex couples spend around $ 20,000 on a divorce in comparison to the $10,000 opposite sex couples spend and this is before the splitting of assets. Same sex couples as well, regardless of the state, are still subject to gift tax. Meaning that any gift of assets over $14,000 is still subject to the federal gift tax.
Another economic hurdle that many same sex couples have to get over is the exceedingly higher price of custody negotiations. Though same sex divorce cant be brought up through the courts the custody of their child can. This then not only means that they are paying the exponentially higher legal fees for the specialized lawyers, but are not paying the court fees as well. Its estimates that an opposite sex couple will spend around $20,000 when getting divorced and determining custody of children in comparison to the $40,000 that same sex couples will have to pay. It was also found that if the divorce is long drawn and harder to determine then most, its not unusual for the overall cost to be around $100,000.