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Colorado sees first gay divorces under civil unions law

Colorado's civil unions law -- which took effect on May 1 -- doesn't just provide legal recognition of same-sex couples. It also offers a legal process for same-sex couples when the relationship ends. Just months since the law was enacted, that process is already being used. Seven same-sex couples have filed for divorce in Colorado courts in recent weeks.

The dissolution of same-sex civil unions is similar to the divorce process for heterosexual marriages in the state, including provisions for spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time and property division. Because the new law recognizes similar agreements from other states, some of these early filings are from people seeking to dissolve partnerships entered into long before Colorado's civil unions law was put into place.

Dissolving an out-of-state civil union is not always simple, however. After a flurry of states approving same-sex marriages in recent months, 13 states now permit same-sex couples to get married. An additional six states have provisions for civil unions between people of the same gender.

Problems arise when people married in a state that permits same-sex marriage move to another state that does not. To divorce, some states require the couple return to the state where they were married -- and some even require the couple live in the state for a period of time. Clearly, this is not possible for many divorcing couples.

An estimated 1,000 civil unions were entered into during the first two months of Colorado's law. The state's department of public health and environment is developing a way to track those unions. In the meantime, the procedures for recognizing same-sex partnerships and handling the dissolution of them are being tested and refined in courtrooms across Colorado and across the nation.

Source: Fort Collins Coloradan, "With civil unions comes dissolution: 7 cases in Colorado courts," Patrick Malone, July 9, 2013

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