As a result of the US Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision, federal recognition of same-sex married couples has become the law of the land. Although there are presently several states in which same-sex couples may marry, Michigan does not allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Same-sex couples who travel to one of the Marriage Equality states and are married there but live in Michigan end up with federal recognition of their marriage but they are not recognized as married by Michigan for any purpose whatsoever.
In the meantime, married same-sex couples living in Michigan have limited legal rights and recognition, as well as conflicting rights. For instance, they must file federal income tax returns as a married couple, but they are prohibited from the same filing for state of Michigan purposes. They may be entitled to a federal adoption tax benefit but they are legally prohibited from jointly adopting children. If their marriage breaks down, they do not have access to the circuit court in their county of residence to file for divorce because the Michigan Constitution prohibits the court from recognizing their marriage even though the federal government recognizes it.
Therefore, it is extremely important that same-sex couples have appropriate advance planning documents in place to address a variety of legal scenarios they may face. These documents include partnership or relationship agreements (similar to pre-nuptial agreements), advance directives for medical care and treatment, durable powers of attorney for financial decisions, estate planning including wills or trusts as their financial picture requires, and designation of guardianship for themselves and their children if they are parents of minor children.
Our attorneys have particular expertise in this family law practice area and can assist in the preparation of the estate planning and other relationship planning documents that can be critical to address potential legal troubles in light of the limited recognition of same-sex couples and their unique legal needs. In the event of dissolution of a same-sex relationship or marriage, our attorneys are trained as mediators to serve as a neutral to help facilitate a resolution. Through constant legal research and as a result of speaking engagements all over the country, we stay on top of the latest law in this rapidly developing legal area. Additionally, we can serve as an advocate for a client who finds themselves in need of dissolution of a same-sex relationship or marriage.
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