In the past decade, numerous states have passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry or enter into a civil union. Last week, the state of New York was added to that list.
Prior to the New York marriage legislation, which provides same-sex couples with all of the rights associated with traditional marriage, New Jersey was the only state in the tri-state area that permitted civil unions between same-sex couples. At the present time, Pennsylvania has not entertained legislation on this issue.
While many gay-rights supporters are enthusiastically applauding the new developments in the law, many attorneys and other experts are warning that all couples should make sure that they fully understand and consider the existing marriage laws in their state before rushing to the altar.
It is safe to say that most couples believe that their relationship will last forever on their wedding day. Unfortunately, a large percentage of marriages eventually end in divorce. Same-sex couples are certainly not immune from these separation statistics; therefore, they must carefully consider the consequences of entering into a marriage contract that is recognized under state law.
In many states, spouses become liable for each other’s debts and other financial obligations once they enter into a marriage contract. Many states also require former spouses to share or equitably divide marital assets upon the dissolution of a marriage.
Additionally, in the event that a marriage ends in divorce, the higher-earning spouse will typically be required to pay alimony or support to their former partner. While these factors should not necessarily dissuade couples from marrying, they should certainly be considered and discussed before the wedding day.