Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Prenups can bring more equality for same-sex spouses in divorce

Although the U.S. Supreme Court opened marriage to same-sex couples in June this year, those couples are still at a significant disadvantage if they want to get divorced. While Massachusetts has recognized same-sex marriages for years, couples who moved out of state may have experienced discrimination. Marriage equality means that the same laws govern same-sex spouses as heterosexual couples. Assets and debts owned by a spouse before the marriage will remain his or her property, and assets and debts accumulated after the date of the marriage must be divided equitably.

Many LGBT couples who lived as life partners for many years were only able to get legally married after the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year. This is where the difficulties come in as only assets gathered since the marriage date will come into play. Everything accumulated by the couple during the years they were together before that date will not be considered for property division in the event of a divorce. If, for instance, a couple was together for 12 years before they got married and one spouse bought a house during that time and paid the mortgage, the house will likely be seen as separate property and allocated to that person. The same goes for other assets and debts.

The length of the marriage typically determines whether spousal support will be ordered. Even if one spouse earns significantly less than the other, he or she may not get spousal support if the marriage lasted less than 10 years, regardless of the time together before the marriage date. However, these inequalities can all be addressed by a prenuptial agreement signed before the date of the marriage.

With the guidance of their respective Massachusetts family law attorneys, same-sex spouses can draft and execute a prenuptial agreement that will dictate how their assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce -- even those accumulated before the marriage. Business interests, intellectual property and other assets can be protected while a prenup can designate what should be treated as marital property. Spousal support can also be agreed upon, along with the division of specified debts.

Source: pridesource.com, "Why LGBT Couples Should Sign A Prenup Before Celebrating Marriage Equality", Lisa Schmidt, Dec. 10, 2015

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