When the Supreme Court removed the state bars to same-sex marriage in 2015, it unlocked a flood of couples racing to the alter. But what now, so many years later?  

What is the state of marriage for same-sex couples? And, like the parties to every other marriage, what was the impact of COVID?

Staying the course and staying in a marriage is hard for everyone regardless of gender, race, or religion. Despite the long-fought battle for marriage equality, being married is not always a bed of roses. Like their heterosexual counterparts, same-sex couples face myriad trials and tribulations. In the main, all couples quibble over which TV shows to watch, whether to have children, where to live, whose family to visit over the holidays, etc.

And like any couple, a certain percentage of same-sex marrieds will get divorced. 
Smaller numbers mean fewer divorces, but…

Even as the pandemic wanes, the percentage of all married couples who eventually divorce over time remains relatively stable – close to 50%. According to the Williams Institute, a gay, legal think tank at the University of California Los Angeles, when one looks at the percentage of same-sex versus heterosexual couples who divorce annually, the numbers stack up as follows:

About 1% of all currently married or registered same-sex couples will divorce in any given year. In comparison, double that percentage, or 2% of total straight married couples, dissolve their unions every year.  Over time however, the total of marrieds who divorce remains at 50%.

What was the impact of COVID-19 on same-sex marriages?

COVID-19 was tough on everyone. Unhappy couples before COVID were unhappy couples during COVID, whether same-sex or heterosexual. According to a survey on the pandemic's impact on relationships published in LegalTemplates, 31% of couples say the quarantine was extremely damaging. Using internally compiled data, the report notes the following:

  • The pandemic hit newlyweds hardest. In 2020, 58% of the company's site visitors pursuing divorce had married within the last five years – a 16% increase over 2019. In 2019, according to the survey, 11% of site visitors were married for five months or less. During the same period in 2020, that number nearly doubled to 20%.
  • More couples with children divorced in mid-pandemic. 45% of couples with children under 18 surveyed moved towards divorce during the lockdowns, a 5% uptick from the year prior.

The growth rate of divorce continues to grow, including filings by same-sex couples. But the real impact is on how much longer it may take for some divorces to finalize, particularly when the warring parties go to court.

In New York, all courts, including family and divorce courts, face significant backlogs of cases awaiting judicial decisions. An increasing number of those cases will be for the divorce of same-sex marriages. 

The more significant issue – beyond COVID-19 – is that unlike marriages between couples of the opposite sex, many same-sex couples, especially those with children, face unique challenges when separating or divorcing, particularly when it comes to custody decisions that pit biological and nonbiological or adoptive parents against one another.
How do you navigate same-sex and heterosexual divorce post-pandemic?

Navigating any divorce can be difficult, particularly when children or significant assets are involved. Wading into the same-sex divorce arena brings its own set of issues to be addressed. If you have questions about the progress of your divorce, let's talk. I'm Dan Stock, and you can call me at 475-232-4105 or email me at dhstock@danielhstockpllc.com to schedule a consultation.

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