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Legal Divorce Necessitates Legal Marriage, Creating Problems for Some Nebraska Couples

Megan N. Mikolajczyk of Domina Law Group is representing Bonnie Nichols, a woman seeking to legally divorce her same-sex spouse in the state of Nebraska. In Nebraska, legal divorce is not possible without a marriage recognized as legal. To date, the state of Nebraska still classifies marriage as between one man and one woman.

Last year, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which classified legal marriage as between one man and one woman. With DOMA no longer standing in the way, many states began legalizing gay marriage. Mikolajczyk, in her representation of the Nichols, challenged the constitutionality of Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban, and consequently, its denial of divorce rights for same-sex couples.

The Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed this case last month, to which Mikolajczyk replied: "Denial of divorce rights binds a broken relationship together against the best interest of the state, the taxpayers, the individuals and their children."

Nichols was married to her spouse in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal. While legally married, the state of Nebraska never recognized Nichols' marriage as such. If divorce is not legal for same-sex couples in Nebraska, what other options do these couples have?

Some couples might seek annulment, but annulment does not settle a number of other issues that accompany divorce such as custody and property division. Even in states that were early adopters of gay marriage, legal divorce requires residency up to a year. To divorce in the same state in which they were married, the Nichols would have to uproot their lives and move to Iowa until they met the strict residency requirements for divorce.

For more information on the issue, read visit For Some Same-Sex Couples, Breaking Up Is Hard To Dowhich appeared in USA Today on July 25, 2014.


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