As most people know, same sex marriage is legal in North Carolina. With the newfound legality of same sex marriage, many people have wondered how this development affects North Carolina family law. The short answer is, same sex married couples are theoretically treated the same as heterosexual couples in North Carolina family law. Same sex marriage is indistinguishable from that of opposite sex couples. This blog gives some details on family law as it relates to same sex couples.
Marriage between a same sex couple would be called “marriage” rather than “same sex marriage”. It includes the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual marriage.
For a same sex couple to get divorced in North Carolina, they must be separated for a year and a day with at least one party intending for the separation to be permanent. You will note that this is the same requirement that opposite sex couples must satisfy. The effects of a same sex divorce and its implications, including alimony and equitable distribution are indistinguishable from those of an opposite sex divorce.
Child Support and Child Custody
Obviously, this family law issue is probably less common for same sex separations than it is for opposite sex separations. However, if both parties have parental rights (either both through adoption, or one through biological relationship and one through adoption), then both parties would be subject to the standard laws and procedures governing North Carolina child custody and North Carolina child support. Child custody would be determined using the best interest of the child standard and courts would decide cases using the same considerations that they use for any other child custody matter. Child support would be decided using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
In a stepparent adoption, a biological parent’s spouse (the child’s stepparent) adopts a stepchild by petitioning the court (and meeting all of the requirements). That parent then has all of the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. As you can probably guess, this process is the same regardless of the sex of the parents.
Separation Agreements and Prenuptial Agreements
Separation agreements are a fantastic tool for parties going through the separation or divorce process. A separation agreement is a contract between parties that covers some of the financial and property aspects of how this separated couple will move forward.
Prenuptial agreements are also very useful. A prenuptial agreement is similar to a separation agreement in that it is a contract between a couple designed to address financial and property aspects, however, this type of agreement occurs before marriage.
Like all other family law considerations, separation agreements and prenuptial agreements for same sex couples would function in the identical manner in which they function for opposite sex couples.
If you are in need of a family law attorney or have some family law questions or concerns that you would like to address, contact us to schedule a consultation with a family law lawyer.