Question: If my same-sex partner and I are legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex relationships and we move to Colorado, can we obtain a legal divorce in Colorado?
Answer: At this time, Colorado does not legally recognize any form of same-sex relationship. This means that marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships legally entered into in other states or countries are not dissolvable in Colorado courts. Simply put, because Colorado does not recognize same-sex couples’ legal relationships, Colorado also does not permit same-sex couples to dissolve those legal relationships.
As a result, any party wishing to obtain a legal dissolution of their legal same-sex relationship must return to the state or country in which they were married or obtained a civil union or domestic partnership and petition for dissolution in that jurisdiction.
Returning to the place of the marriage, union or partnership (or another state that recognizes same-sex relationships) poses several problems. First, most jurisdictions have a residency requirement that must be met before a court can dissolve the relationship. That residency requirement can be anywhere from 90 days to six months. For parties who reside in Colorado, it may be inconvenient or impossible to meet this residency requirement. Second, most of the property to be allocated in the dissolution will be located in Colorado. It is more expensive and time consuming to obtain an allocation of real property in dissolution when that property is located in a different state. Third, any children of the relationship will reside and Colorado, which will make Colorado the “home state” of the child and the only jurisdiction that can allocate parental responsibilities.
Thus, in returning to the state of original jurisdiction where the relationship is legally recognized, the couple may spend significant time and funds attempting to establish residency and obtaining an allocation of real property. In addition, it may be necessary to proceed in resolving the children’s issues in Colorado while the remaining issues are resolved in the other state.
Colorado residents do have one option that is unique to the Rocky Mountain region. In 2011, the Wyoming Supreme Court held that although the state does not recognize same-sex marriage, the domestic courts still have jurisdiction to dissolve those marriages. As a result, same-sex couples that reside in Colorado might consider seeking dissolution of their relationship in Wyoming.
The benefit to Colorado parties is that Wyoming is closer and may be more convenient to meet the jurisdictional residency requirements as opposed to returning to Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Washington or whichever state where the relationship is legally recognized. In addition, Wyoming’s proximity to Colorado makes it a more convenient option for parties who own property in Colorado that is being allocated in the dissolution and in cases where issues related to children must be litigated in Colorado.
The Colorado Bar Association welcomes your questions on subjects of general interest. This column is meant to be used as general information. Consult your own attorney for specifics. Send questions to the CBA attn: Sara Crocker, 1900 Grant St., Suite 900, Denver, CO 80203 or email email@example.com.