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Marriage and Divorce- It Isn’t That Easy In the Sunshine State

Over the last several months in Florida, there have been several interesting cases that have emerged in family court divisions around the state, which eventually will make its way to conclusions at the State’s Appellate Courts, and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. What I am referring to is Florida’s law which bans and/or does not recognize same-sex marriage.

In two cases this year, the issue was whether the Florida state court can recognize an out-of-state union or same-sex marriage, for which the couples had moved to Florida and eventually sought a dissolution of their marriage in Florida courts.

In one of these cases, a Florida trial court said that it did not have jurisdiction or the ability to move forward with the dissolution of marriage action, even though the marriage was valid in the other state, for Florida’s law does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states (out of state marriage not given full, faith and credit), and therefore the Florida Judge could not grant a divorce to the couple.

In another case in another part of our state, a Florida Judge ruled that Florida’s same sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, as far as preventing the Judge from granting a dissolution of marriage or divorce to a same sex couple married in another state. Two other cases around the state of Florida were addressing the issue of trying to overturn Florida’s same-sex marriage ban so they could marry in Florida.

All four cases are making there way through the Florida Appellate Courts, and both the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar have filed their respective briefs on the issues. The Florida Supreme Court was asked to address the issue of one of the cases, as being of great public importance, but that court in September of this year declined to address the issue and sent the matter back to the intermediate appellate court to decide the issue.

Needless to say, the appellate courts in Florida will have to address this issue and give guidance to litigants and the lower courts. Stayed tuned.


Posted October 6, 2014