In the last few years, same-sex couples across the state of Arkansas have watched as the nation transforms itself into a more forward-thinking country. With the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding federal benefits for same-sex couples and the slew of states that have legalized gay marriage, it would seem that things are changing for nontraditional families.
This sentiment was confirmed this month when Hawaii passed a new bill allowing gay marriage in the state. Starting December 2, Hawaii will allow same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses and get married in the state provided they abide by the specific exemption rules for certain clergy and religious organizations.
But what does this mean for couples here in Arkansas?
Until our own legislation passes a similar bill, gay marriage will not be recognized in the state. That means that while same-sex couples will be considered married in Hawaii, this will not be the case here. And when it comes to divorce, this difference in legality could create significant problems down the road.
As with any divorce, same-sex couples will have to divide their assets and property, determine custody and visitation arrangements if they have children, and sign all of the legal documents that dissolve their marriage. This can be difficult here in Arkansas if their union is not recognized. While they may be able to divorce in another state, it’s worth noting that some states require couples to have lived in that state for a specific amount of time before they can file for divorce. This could create even more problems though because this process can take time and considerable amounts of money that the couple may not want to spend.
Because of this, same-sex couples here in Arkansas are encouraged to talk to a lawyer about their specific situation and see what option is best for them. In the end, this could be what saves them from having to handle a complicated situation on their own.
Source: ABC News, “Hawaii Governor to Sign State’s Gay Marriage Bill,” Oskar Garcia, Nov. 12, 2013