As you are most likely aware, Massachusetts legalized "gay marriage" in 2004, and Vermont and Connecticut have since authorized "civil unions" that extend marriage-like rights to same-sex couples. Ever since then, legal experts have begun debating what would happen when those couples chose to terminate those relationships, as CNN has reported.
This issue has been addressed by a handful of state appellate courts, who have reached different conclusions thus far:
- The Iowa Supreme Court dismissed a case involving the dissolution of a Vermont civil union by holding that the various groups and other individuals challenging the ruling lacked standing to bring the appeal. (Alons v. Iowa District Court)
- The Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled that despite of the its "Marriage Affirmation Act", Virginia must give full faith and credit under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act ("PKPA") to a custody determination made by a Vermont court growing out of a Vermont civil union. The opinion states that the federal "Defense of Marriage of Act" (DOMA) does not create an exception to the PKPA and that both statutes must be given effect. The opinion includes no discussion about the relationship between Virginia’s Marriage Affirmation Act and Virginia’s version of the UCCJEA. (Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins)
- A hearing is scheduled this week in Rhode Island to address whether a Rhode Island same-sex couple married in Massachusetts may divorce. Rhode Island state law neither expressly recognizes or prohibits same-sex marriages.
Source: "Divorcing same-sex couples ‘raises new questions for states’" and "‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ Child Custody, and Civil Unions – The Virginia Answer" published by Alexander R. Rhoads at the Iowa Family Law blog.