Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gays: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

By: Carole L. Chiamp

Prominent Michigan family law attorney Carole L. Chiamp, who is of counsel to our firm, is a family law court-approved mediator. She is among the first attorneys in Michigan to obtain this designation. She currently authors a monthly article in the Michigan Family Law Journal entitled "Mediation Matters." Carole's June/July 2010 article focuses on gay couples and the unique challenges that they face in the event that they part ways.

Long term gay couples face challenges that are distinctly different from those of straight couples. In fact, these challenges are so many and diverse as to make it impossible to describe in a short article. My hope is that we begin to discuss these issues. As a mediator, the best place to start is to learn applicable law regarding such couples in your jurisdiction. Come to terms with your own biases and change your attitude, if necessary.

Michigan law does not recognize same-sex marriages, so the laws of divorce and dissolution of marriage do not apply in these relationships.

In Michigan, very little, if anything, can be done in a court to assist this couple to resolve their serious problems. Straight couples can use the law but same-sex couple relationships are treated badly, if at all, by the courts. What is the couple to do? The best they can hope for is that the courts will treat their relationship relative to property as a failed partnership: a business partnership. There are no rights of spousal support, parenting, pension or other protections. It could even be that this couple will end up with one action in family court to deal with custody and another in civil court to divide property. Both courts present hard challenges.

One solution would be to mediate. An added problem for this couple is to find a mediator with knowledge of issues and concerns unique to the population, while understanding that differences between same-sex and straight couples, does not necessarily alter the basic mediation process. How mediators deal with same-sex couples often means trying to figure out what a court would decide. Participants in mediation, however, are free to make agreements that go beyond legal prescriptions, as long as they do not contravene specific legal prohibitions.

Read the entire article here.

The "Mediation Matters" archives can be found here.

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