Family law attorney outlines 4 implications of gay marriage ruling


Jessica Woll, managing partner of Woll & Woll, P.C., a divorce and family law practice in Birmingham, responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday recognizing gay marriage with some important considerations for gay couples who reside in Michigan.

“Prior to June 26, 37 States and the District of Columbia recognized gay marriage. With the Supreme Court's landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Michigan and across the country, there are considerations same-sex couples need to be aware of immediately,” said Woll.

1. Same-sex couples living in Michigan who married in a state that previously recognized gay marriage or now marry here, have the same rights to get divorced in Michigan as heterosexual couples. The couple must reside in Michigan for six months and be a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 10 days prior to filing the divorce action.

 2.  Often in a gay union, and particularly in states where gay marriage has not been recognized, only one parent has legal rights to a minor child. It is imperative that the parent without legal rights to the child adopt the child.

 “At this juncture, simply getting married after the fact will not create parental rights for the parent who currently doesn’t have them,” said Woll.

 3.  Prior to Friday’s decision, Woll had same-sex clients who got married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage, but who lived in Michigan where the union was not legally recognized. They wanted to get divorced, but were unwilling to move out of state to do so.

“In these instances, I created a contract similar to a post-nuptial agreement, that divided the couples’ assets, dealt with spousal support, attorney fees and even issues pertaining to children,” Woll said. “These contracts included clauses stating that in the event gay marriage becomes legal, the document should be incorporated into a judgment of divorce. Contracts such as these should be upheld in Michigan.”

 4.  In Michigan, a child born during a marriage is considered a child of the marriage, regardless of whether that child is the actual biological child of the father.

“It will be interesting to see how this law applies when both parents are married men or women,” Woll said.
 Woll notes the four reference points are only the tip of the iceberg when considering what gay marriage will mean in Michigan.

 “The ramifications of gay marriage will be broad and far reaching from a legal perspective and I suspect we will see some immediate new case law as a result,” Woll said. “I also think our legislature is going to be very busy interpreting and defining laws and statutes that previously applied only to heterosexual marriage and divorce.”