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Florida Lesbian Couple Granted Divorce Over State Attorney General’s Protest

On May 29th, the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled to reverse an order by a Hillsborough Circuit judge who declined to grant a divorce to Keiba Lynn and Mariama Changamire Shaw, in spite of a request from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for the appellate courts to wait for a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

A judge rejected Tampa resident Mariama Changamire Shaw’s divorce petition in 2012, citing Florida’s same-sex marriage ban. Shaw then appealed on constitutional grounds. Fortunately, the Court of Appeals followed the recent federal court ruling and decided the obvious: the right to a marriage license also grants the right to a divorce.

LGBT Rights to Marry In Florida

This comes as an affirmation of the state’s position on LGBT rights to marry in spite of a number of Florida county clerks (such as those in Clay, Baker, and Duval counties) ceasing to provide any and all wedding ceremonies altogether in order to avoid marrying same-sex couples. By law, these clerks have to provide licenses to same-sex partners. Other clerks have responded by closing off the judicial buildings to wedding ceremonies, but allowing them to proceed on county property in general.

Florida recognizes any and all same-sex marriages officiated in other states, and although judges, notaries, and religious leaders are most commonly chosen to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies, anyone can get certified to officiate a ceremony.

The Importance of Also Legalizing Same-Sex Divorce

The state of Florida recognizing divorce (as well as marriage) rights for same sex couples is important to couples who seek channels to make arrangements for many of the common issues couples face in divorce, such as child custody, support, property distribution, etc. Even addressing such issues as adjustments to wills can be near impossible if you are married in one state and divorced in another state that has not legalized same-sex divorce, as you cannot make adjustments to what your spouse will receive in your will, for example.

Although the process of divorce is usually never easy, being denied access to it can make life even more complicated for couples seeking to dissolve their marriage. For example, any asset that was in a spouse’s name, even if purchased by the other person, could entirely go to the spouse whose name it is in instead of being split by a court. The right to divorce can even affect payments individuals have to make each month: if income-based student loan repayments and/or health care subsidies are based, in part, on marital income, these payments can be artificially high for individuals who no longer benefit from spousal income, but cannot get their payments adjusted because they cannot obtain a divorce.

Florida Family Law Attorney

In the midst of the controversy that has historically accompanied LGBT marriage and divorce rights in Florida, it is imperative that you seek assistance from an experienced attorney so that you know your legal rights and what you need to do to protect yourself at any stage of these family life matters. Contact the law offices of Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. We are proud to serve LGBT communities and support protecting your rights in any way that we can.

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