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Same-sex couple turns to divorce mediation

A divorce attorney might agree that recent changes in technology and divorce law have added complexity to the field of family law. A recent divorce between registered domestic partners provides context.

The case concerns a California couple that had registered as domestic partners under state law. They also had two children. Yet the fertility procedures they followed blur the lines of what legally defines a biological parent. Specifically, one woman contributed the egg, and after fertilization from a sperm donor, it was implanted in the other female partner’s uterus. The women reversed those roles for their second child.

After ten years, the couple decided to legally separate. They mutually agreed to a child support and visitation plan, and may not have required court intervention except for a property issue: state law at that time did not recognize joint property division for same-sex couples. Since the couples wanted to avoid paying a gift tax, they requested a ruling from a divorce court.

Unfortunately, the couple did not feel comfortable with the treatment they received from the judge. As a last resort, they opted for mediation, which resulted in a settlement that both partners accepted.

The case is interesting not only because it shows how much divorce and family law has changed in California in recent years, but also that options for dissolution do not always have to involve a divorce court. In this case, the couple selected mediation, which offers a more relaxed format because any discussions are generally confidential and will not leave the mediation room, save for the terms of any agreement that is reached. Although both parties may have their lawyers present, the formalities of evidentiary foundations, opening statements, and arguments can be abandoned in favor of more frank discussions.

Source: businessinsider.com, “Laura Wasser Explains How Divorce Has Changed,” Laura Wasser, Oct. 22, 2013

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