GLBT Relationships

Why Collaborative?

The law has a long history of ignoring and burdening the rights of LGBT couples, and this can manifest in couples who have been together for long periods of time but married only a few years. While same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, there remain some unsettled areas of law that emerge upon dissolution. For example, some couples will spend money fighting over whether or not they were in a joint enterprise, or common law married, and for how long. Establishing clear parental rights can also be challenging. The collaborative process allows couples to avoid possible legal skirmishes and may provide a better platform for discovering solutions that work for them.

We have also noticed that some same-sex dissolutions carry with them as much or more acrimony as other dissolutions. Usually, the psychological parts of any breakup are founded in … psychology. Which means that they are about feelings and are not generally the result of legal process or legal issues. Many LGBT couples find that collaboration offers a structure that tames the hostility better than a traditional litigious approach. In addition to the private and built in non-judgmental nature of collaboration, having attorneys who are trained not to engage in adversarial tactics can make a huge difference. Moreover, some of the leaders in the fight for same-sex rights in this state are long standing members of the Collaborative community, lending more insight and compassion for LGBT couples.

Agreements can be created for married, unmarried, same-sex and opposite-sex couples that define their legal rights and responsibilities. These agreements can be written before or during the relationship between the parties. These agreements are binding on the parties as a contract and can be made into an order of the court in a dissolution or partition court action.

Collaborative Process/mediation can be helpful in creating these agreements because the parties will consider all of the issues that are raised by combining their household and jointly taking on the purchase of homes or raising children. The parties will consider their values and plans to create a document that meets their specific needs.

Same-Sex Relationships

Pursuant to the watershed United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, including Colorado. Couples in Colorado have the same options that heterosexual couples do in terms of marrying, having common law marriages, and Civil Unions. These issues are particularly well suited for resolution in the collaborative process. For couples who have been in a marriage-like relationship since before civil unions and legal marriage were available, questions remain as to when the marriage began. Issues around same-sex common law marriage are undecided as well.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.

Same-sex and other un-married couples can still share parental responsibilities, and have court-ordered parenting time if they break up or divorce.

Civil Unions

Civil unions were initially proposed as a same-sex alternative to marriage and they carry the same responsibilities as do marriages concerning division of property and support obligations. However, they do not have the same federal rights to divide property without tax consequences nor can federally regulated properties – such as pensions and retirement properties – be divided by court order.

Although the impetus for Civil Unions was the denial of same sex marital rights, Civil Unions persist and there are many couples – including heterosexual couples – who avail themselves of this alternative. Federal law has yet to test whether, for example, a civil union will defeat a military dependency benefit.

Civil Unions have a couple of twists that make them unique – such as jurisdiction to dissolve them even if the parties do not currently live in Colorado.

Same-sex Marriage Alternatives

Other states still have Domestic partnerships and the like, and the legal status of these relationships remains undetermined at law.