On October 10, 2014, same sex marriages became legal in North Carolina. A federal court ruled that same sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, which resulted in the nullification of North Carolina’s laws prohibiting same sex marriage. This means that same sex couples in North Carolina are now legally allowed to marry under the same conditions as opposite sex couples. The traditional gender roles historically associated with the terms “husband” and “wife” will rapidly evolve as same sex marriages become commonplace in our neighborhoods. Now, our citizens, lawyers and judges are sorting out how to adapt the old laws to this dramatic shift created by the legalization of same sex marriages.
Same sex couples in North Carolina can now avail themselves of the “family laws” in our state. For example, same sex couples may now get an absolute divorce based on a year’s separation. Same sex spouses now have the same right as opposite sex spouses to seek an equitable distribution by the court of the assets acquired during the marriage and to file a claim for postseparation support and alimony. Same-sex couples can sign a premarital agreement before getting married to protect their interests, and they can sign a separation and property settlement agreement to resolve marital issues if they split up after they are married. A same-sex spouse who is married to the “legal parent” may now petition the court to adopt the step-child in the same way as an opposite sex step-parent. Same-sex spouses now have the same inheritance rights in the event that their spouse dies without a will.
If you are in a same-sex relationship and considering whether to marry your significant other, or if you have been trapped in a same-sex marriage because you could not get a divorce in North Carolina, you should consult an experienced family law attorney to understand your brand-new rights and obligations under North Carolina law.