LGBTQ Family Law in Florida
Sessums Black is proud to represent clients involved in all types of family structures, including clients of all sexual orientations. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions related to individuals who are lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, transsexual, or questioning.
Does Florida recognize marriages between spouses in the LGBTQ communities?
Yes. The U.S. Supreme Court decision U.S. v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013) struck down as unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act which, among other things, defined marriage as between a man and a woman. However, states, and not the federal government, traditionally have had the right to define marriages. Therefore, in its opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court cautioned that its decision did not necessarily mean that states could not validly ban same-sex marriage. The Windsor decision led to litigation throughout the 50 states, including Florida, attacking laws which restricted legal marriages to only those involving heterosexual couples.
Florida began recognizing the rights of couples to marry within the LGBTQ community beginning in January 2015. It was precipitated by an injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Breener v. Scott, 999 F. Supp. 2d 1278 (Aug. 21, 2014). The injunction, which took effect on January 6, 2015, prevented Florida from enforcing its bans on same-sex marriage. Since then, enforcement of Florida’s bans on same-sex marriage ended.
The Supreme Court in Pavan v. Smith, 137 S. Ct. 2075 (2017) held, among other things, that the U.S. Constitution “entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.”
Florida now permits marriages between individuals within the LGBTQ community and recognizes such marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
Why are marriages between spouses in the LGBTQ communities different than heterosexual marriages?
Not all jurisdictions inside and outside the United States have fully embraced LGBTQ marriages, nor do all jurisdictions recognize marriages between persons of the LGBTQ communities performed in other jurisdictions. Therefore, family law matters such as divorce, parental rights (aka “custody”), timesharing (aka “visitation”), division of assets and liabilities (aka “equitable distribution”), spousal maintenance (aka “alimony”), and child support may be more complicated for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning individuals.
Do options exist for members of the LGBTQ communities if they wish to marry or divorce?
Yes, legal options do exist to afford similar legal protections to couples within the LGBTQ communities which are available to heterosexual couples. The attorneys of Sessums Black have a broad base of knowledge and experience assisting members of the LGBTQ communities with their family law matters. Our attorneys can, among other things:
- Provide legal counsel to clients who are considering:
- marrying in Florida but anticipate living in another jurisdiction
- marrying in another jurisdiction but anticipate living in Florida
- obtaining civil unions in another jurisdiction but anticipate living in Florida
- premarital (aka “prenuptial”) agreements
- postnupitual (aka “antenuptial”) agreements
- cohabitation agreements
- Assist clients who are:
- dissolving a marriage from another jurisdiction
- dissolving long-term relationships with LGBTQ partners
- separating from their partner and have a child in common (biological and non-biological children)
- Assist clients with domestic violence issues in a LGBTQ relationship
- Division of assets and liabilities between LGBTQ partners
Are family laws relating to or involving persons within the LGBTQ communities changing?
Yes. Laws in many states, including Florida, often change. The attorneys of Sessums Black actively monitor changes in all laws, rules, and issues which may affect clients so they can provide superior personalized legal representation and counsel.
How do I learn more?
The attorneys of Sessums Black are available for a consultation to see how they can best assist you with your Florida family law questions and issues. Click here or call our office at (813) 251-9200 to learn more.