Same Sex Marriage Also Allows Relief to Same Sex Couples Wanting a Divorce
As soon as gay marriage became legal in Florida, divorce did too, and being able to legally dissolve a union was almost as freeing to some same sex couples as was the freedom to finally get married. Indeed, on the first day same sex marriage was legal in January of 2015, a Florida judge also granted a divorce. There were many couples who had been married in other states and moved to Florida. Since same sex marriage was not recognized by that state, it could also not legally grant a divorce.
That left a lot of couples in limbo and with complicated legal issues that were a burden financially as well as emotionally. Separated same sex couples faced difficulties in simple things like filing income tax returns. The IRS does not allow married people to file as single adults, so even though their marriage was not recognized in Florida, they still had to file as married and that caused a penalty in some cases. In other cases, they were not able to write wills because Florida law requires that spouses have certain rights. It was very murky legal ground for couples in this situation and put them in a bind.
People in this situation could not add or remove beneficiaries from insurance policies or from IRA's. They were trapped by the marriage from another state. Some couples started calling that situation "wed-lock."
Another issue for couples is that if they had been married in another state and separated in Florida, they would not be able to get married to even a heterosexual partner if another state recognized the legal marriage still in effect of one of the people involved. It is not clear if, as Florida residents, they could have gone back to the state that issued the marriage and got a divorce there.
The 2010 census estimated there were 50,000 same sex couples in Florida, but it was not known how many were married from other states. The Williams Institute at UCLA studies issues involving states legalizing same sex marriage. They estimate there will be 25,000 same sex marriages over the next three years. For some couples being allowed to get a divorce is another step they will have to take before they can get married.
But with the legalization of same sex marriage, the issue is put to rest to some degree. An article in the Tampa Bay Times said there is little legal precedence for handling same sex divorces. So far they are being treated the same as opposite sex couples as far as legalities involving property and child custody issues. While there were many couples rejoicing that they could finally tie the knot, there were also many who were happy that they could finally untie theirs.