DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LAW
All same sex couples contemplating marriage should seek counsel from a specialist in this area of law. Barry is a recognized expert in this rapidly developing and ever-changing area of law. Barry counsels and represents his clients in the following areas:
- Same-Sex Marriage – The historic decision of Obergefell v. Hodges (PDF), issued by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, held that same-sex couples have the right to be legally married in every state and every same-sex marriage must be legally recognized and afforded the same rights as heterosexual marriages. This landmark decision will have a powerful impact on same-sex couples seeking to marry throughout the United States.
There are still unresolved issues for same-sex couples who choose to marry relating to parental rights for non-biological children. A paramount concern with same-sex couples who have or plan to have children is whether a second-parent or step parent must adopt. There are conflicting opinions within the state court decisions although the courts in some instances have applied the threshold test of “what is in the best interest of the child or children”. Barry can advise you of the legal issues still in flux as a result of this landmark decision.
- New York City Domestic Partnerships – A Domestic Partnership in New York City may be registered by two people where either or both of the parties are at least 18 years old, are New York City residents, or at least one person is employed by the City of New York on the date of registration. Neither party can be married or related by blood in a way that would bar his or her marriage in New York State. The parties must have a close and committed personal relationship and live together on a continuous basis. Neither party can be registered in any other Domestic Partnership and cannot have been registered as a Domestic Partner within six months of the date of registration.
- Domestic Partnership Agreements – These agreements specify each partner's rights and responsibilities in their relationship together. They address the partners' division of property, assets, minor children, health benefits, housing rights and other related individual issues specific to the couple while they are together, or in the event of a separation or a dissolution of their relationship.
- Prenuptial Agreements – A same-sex Prenuptial Agreement allows individuals to protect their financial rights that include income and assets defined as “separate”, meaning those acquired by a spouse to be prior to the marriage, and “marital”, meaning those acquired by the couple together during the marriage. A prenuptial agreement is useful for determining property rights or addressing alimony issues, but it cannot be used to resolve custody or make binding agreements involving children.
- Second Parent Adoptions – Are particularly important to same sex couples as they create and secure their legal parental relationship that will be recognized in all states. The need for a second-parent adoption may arise where only one partner is biologically related to a child or where only one partner previously adopted a child. The only way for the other parent to
guarantee his or her legal relationship to the child is through a
- Collaborative Resolution – An alternative form of dispute resolution effective in same-sex divorce matters or domestic partnership dissolutions. The separating couples each have an attorney and work primarily in four-way meetings. The separating couple is directly involved in the negotiated settlement process and agreement to resolve such issues as property distribution, child custody and visitation and real estate. Since New York law does not necessarily protect the rights of non-traditional families, the collaborative law approach may be the best way for non-traditional families to reach a settlement that works best for them even if it is different than what the law would mandate. A team of advocates including child specialists and financial experts may be consulted to assist, if necessary. Collaborative Law is different than mediation, which centers on the participants working with one neutral person.
- Estate Planning – With the ever present changing rules of law relating to inheritance rights for non-traditional families, same-sex couples should insure their protection through appropriate estate planning. The preparation of Wills, Health Care Proxies, Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney,
releases for access to medical information, directions for the disposition of a partner's or spouse's remains, Standby Guardianship for Minor Children
and authorizations to obtain medical care for each other and their children should each be considered and addressed. Consult with Barry to address these complex legal issues and implement an estate plan to insure that domestic partners, same-sex spouses and their
children are protected in life and upon death.