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Stay reinforces Arkansas same-sex marriage, divorce ban

Family law has been center stage during the last few weeks in Arkansas. A Pulaski County judge ruled the state's ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional on May 9. The decision was followed a week later by the state Supreme Court's temporary suspension of the ruling until an appeal is heard.

During the week before the stay was set in place, over 460 gay couples got married in Arkansas. The greatest number of marriage licenses was issued to same-sex partners in Washington and Pulaski counties. In between the rush of celebrations were some gay couples seeking divorce.

Arkansas, for the moment, does not acknowledge or permit marriages or divorces for gay couples. Same-sex partners with legal marriages from other states will have to cross the border again to obtain a divorce. In the week when the old laws were outlawed, divorce petitions for same-sex spouses were accepted in Arkansas; it will be up to the discretion of individual judges whether those filings have any merit.

The change in law wasn't the only thing that went on hold when the state high court issued a stay. Arkansas gay couples seeking divorce before the state resolves its legal issue may have to relocate to a state where same-sex divorce is legal. Moving costs and residency requirements in other states can delay a divorce by months or longer.

In the meantime, gay couples at the end of a marriage are caught in a legal limbo. Some want to wait it out in Arkansas, where they've established careers and comfortable roots. Others are anxious to move forward into independent lives free of financial ties and legal complications.

Arkansas is one of several states where judges have declared that bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. Gay couples can gain valuable insight on the current and changing state of marriage and divorce laws by consulting with a family law attorney.

Source: Arkansas News, "Some Arkansans seeking right to same-sex divorce" John Lyon, May. 25, 2014

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