Florida Court Rules that Same-Sex Couples May Get Divorced
A lesbian couple in Tampa, Florida will be allowed to divorce, according to the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling. The order referred to another same-sex divorce case from Lee County, Florida in which the appellate court ordered in April 2015 that a divorce be granted, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The Court, in explaining its decision to reverse the lower court’s refusal to grant the divorce, stated that “the practical impact of the trial court’s order is that a validly married couple, albeit of the same sex, cannot access a Florida court to undo their marriage,” according to an article published on Jacksonville.com. The Court went on the state that “the couple’s financial affairs remain intertwined, and their joint assets, if any, are not easily transferred. The trial court’s order impedes the flow of assets and capital. Particularly significant, the welfare and stability of a child parented by this couple remains in limbo. The fact that a child is involved implicates Florida’s strong public policy to protect children by determining custody matters in accordance with the best interests of the child. Our decision today protects the parties’ rights of access to the court for dissolution of their marriage and an opportunity to be heard regarding their claimed rights to their assets and the child.”
The decision was praised by Equality Florida, an organization advocating for civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Equality Florida issued a press release stating:
“…the second District Court of Appeal joined the tidal wave of courts across the country who have affirmed the rights of same-sex couples to be treated equally under the law…as we await a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, we know this is one more message to the nine Justices that it is time to put an end to discrimination when it comes to marriage.”
Specifics of the Case
The case focused on Keiba Lynn Shaw and Mariama Changamire Shaw. The Shaws agreed to their divorce and settled all issues through a process known as collaborative divorce, asking the courts only to issue a legal declaration dissolving their marriage, according to the Orlando Sentinel article.
In 2014, a circuit court judge refused to grant the Shaws’ divorce highlighting state law and the Florida Constitution, which does not recognize same-sex marriages. Specifically, Florida Code Section 741.212 states that:
“Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriages in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, are not recognized for any purpose in this state.”
The circuit court judge ruled that the Shaws could not dissolve the marriage since it did not legally exist in the state of Florida.
A federal judge entered a ruling that laid the groundwork for same-sex marriages to be performed in Florida. This decision is bolstered by that of the Supreme Court, which recently decided that states do not have the right to ban same-sex marriage.
Can We Help You?
At our office, we are pleased that an even greater share of the population in the United States now has the right to pursue marriage and divorce. If you have any questions about these topics in Florida, reach out to Vanessa Prieto for a consultation today.