In the last year, same-sex marriage was legalized in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, paving the way for thousands of couples to finally get hitched.  This new freedom granted same-sex couples not only the right to exchange vows and rings, but it gave them a new set of legal rights.  These rights, while the same, can be applied differently in the context of family law as it relates to these couples.  Below are some areas that stand out as important for same-sex couples to realize and understand:

1. Length of Relationship does not equal length of marriage  Many same-sex couples have been together 5, 10, 20 years and if they could have, would have gotten married decades ago.   So, their “date of marriage” in their eyes may be ten years ago, but legally only a few months.  This becomes very important when determining the martial assets and property.  In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the state recognizes marital property in the event of divorce as that acquired from the date of marriage to the date of separation.  Date of marriage would be the legal marriage date.  This fact has lead many same-sex couples to seek drafting a prenuptial agreement which allows them to circumvent this statutory default.

2.  If you got married in another state before Pennsylvania or New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage, which date do you use?  You would use the date that you actually were legally married, whether in Pennsylvania or New Jersey or otherwise.

3. Cohabitation Agreements are usually voided upon legal marriage.  Many same-sex couples entered into co-habitation agreements to provide some security where the law lacked.  Once you are married, these agreements no longer hold weight.  But, if you liked the terms or the sentiment of such an agreement, you can draft a prenuptial agreement to reflect similar terms.

Hopefully these tips helped shed some light on this new area of law.  If you or someone you know would like more information, please contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC today.