Same-sex couples: To marry or not

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It was a hard-fought battle for same-sex couples in Arizona, so when a federal court acknowledged your right to marry just a year before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, you may have felt is was long overdue. In fact, you may have been among the many who lived with your partner for years before obtaining federal protection for your union.

The right to marry carries other protections as well. Far from being just a piece of paper or an expensive ceremony, marriage provides you and your partner with some important legal perks that you may not have considered. However, you cannot overlook the potential disadvantages to marrying your same-sex partner.

Weighing the pros and cons

If you are trying to decide whether it is better to get married or to keep your relationship as it is, you may wish to consider some of the advantages to legally sealing your union, for example:

  • If one spouse has a baby, courts now assume same-sex spouses have full parental rights without having to go through the adoption process.
  • You have joint property rights as a married couple, so any assets you acquire during your marriage belong to both of you.
  • Marriage gives you the right to certain tax breaks and other government benefits, such as Social Security and those benefits provided through the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • You and your spouse will automatically have the legal right to involvement in any health care issues or end-of-life decisions as next of kin for each other.

Of course, you should also consider the disadvantages to marrying your partner. If formal ceremonies are not your style, getting married may not be for you. Additionally, perhaps you do not see sharing ownership of your personally acquired property as a good thing and prefer to keep your assets separated. In fact, if you should ever divorce, the law will divide your joint property equally. This includes any debts you and your spouse accumulate.

What’s your decision?

You may find the reasons against marrying your same-sex partner are no different than those drawbacks opposite-sex couples face. Nevertheless, your situation may be more complex, especially if you have been living together as a couple for years.

If you should ever face the prospect of divorce, you may have to deal with many complications when it comes to dividing your assets and custody of your children. For this reason, you will want the services of a skilled attorney who has experience assisting same-sex couples with their unique legal issues.