Missouri Supreme Court intervenes in same-sex divorce issue

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Family Law on Thursday, February 26, 2015.

The matter of same-sex marriage in Missouri has been growing in significance since last summer, when we covered a matter involving the attempt by two women who were married in another state attempting to divorce in Missouri, which does not recognize same-sex marriage. Now the state Supreme Court has entered into the controversy, but rather than jumping in it has dipped its toes in the water.

The case in question concerns two men who were married in another state but less than a year later decided to divorce. Only instead of seeking a divorce in the same state in which they were married, they elected to attempt it in St. Louis. The judge of the circuit court dismissed their petition based on the reasoning that because Missouri does not recognize same-sex marriage it cannot grant a same-sex divorce.

The Supreme Court reversed the judge’s decision, sending it back for further review. This would seemingly suggest that in fact circuit courts in this state do have jurisdiction to consider same-sex divorces; but in the same reversal the Supreme Court expressly refused to express an opinion as to whether circuit courts actually have statutory or constitutional authority to grant same-sex marriage divorces.

The apparent contradiction in the Missouri Supreme Court’s action may be based at least in part on the impending intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court into the issue of same-sex marriage. The state Supreme Court has also effectively put into stasis another case coming out of St. Louis involving a same-sex marriage performed there, which was in contravention of a state constitutional amendment expressly defining marriage in Missouri as heterosexual-only.

The present import of the State Supreme court’s tentative intervention into the same-sex marriage and divorce arena is that the law in in a state of flux and the Supreme Court is deferring to its federal counterpart rather than committing itself to one side of the question only to risk being reversed itself. Federal court cases have already resulted in several states’ prohibitions on same-sex marriage being invalidated.

Anyone considering a same-sex marriage or divorce in Missouri would be well advised to consult with a family law attorney to keep up with the current state of the law before making any final decisions.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Missouri Supreme Court sends same-sex divorce case back to lower court,” Doug Moore, Feb. 10, 2015

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