Last week, I had to tell a client that there was no legal remedy for her situation. She and her same-sex spouse were married in Massachusetts. Because they had family living in Massachusetts and because the state where they live does not allow same-sex marriage, they came to Massachusetts to solemnize and celebrate their legal marital union.
After several years, and many attempts at counseling and mediation, both spouses decided that the marriage had broken down and they needed a divorce.
It seems logical to them that since they married in Massachusetts, that they could divorce in Massachusetts. However, that is where the legal limbo begins. Massachusetts, like most states, has jurisdictional and residential requirements in order to divorce. In fact, it is absolutely prohibited to move to Massachusetts for the sole purpose of divorcing. You have to live in our state for at least one year before a divorce can be filed. Since neither this woman nor her spouse have ever lived in Massachusetts, they could not divorce here… or it seems… not anywhere! Sadly her state still does not allow or recognize gay marriage.
I told her that 17 states and eight Native American tribal jurisdictions have allowed same-sex marriage; there are four states where the issue is awaiting appellate court decisions; Kentucky recognizes marriages performed in other states (but I do not know if that means they allow divorces between same-sex couples); and Maryland allows same-sex divorce, but not same-sex marriage. I could only advise her to research the residential and jurisdictional requirements of each of the states where same-sex marriage or divorce is allowed. Sad but true. We live in a mobile society, but mobility in a country where same-sex marriage is not allowed in every state, can leave a same-sex couple without a remedy to sever the bonds of matrimony.
The states which do allow gay marriage are as follows: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Hawaii, Illinois (as of June 1, 2014), Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Washington (state) and Washington, DC. This issue of marriage equality in Utah and Oklahoma is currently being brought before the United States Supreme Court.