DOMA

Ten Years After Goodridge, Gay Marriage is Here to Stay

Hi there,

Until I got online last night I hadn’t realized that we are ten years out from the Goodridge decision. I can still remember where I was when I read it back in 2003, and it was the only time I had ever cried (I was so moved by the language) when reading a decision. It wasn’t until last night that I realized Peter Zupcofska, my partner in the Private Client Group here, had written an amicus brief on behalf of Goodridge.

In the 10 years since Goodridge, gay marriage has become woven into the social fabric of Massachusetts. Initially due to DOMA, the legal process of both gay marriage and gay divorce was extremely complicated.

Over the course of time other states joined Massachusetts, some not allowing gay marriage but allowing gay divorce of couples legally married in another state.

This past June, DOMA was overturned by the Supreme Court. Since then, gay divorce, at least in Massachusetts and the other states that allow gay marriage/divorce has become simpler, cleaner and more straightforward.

Currently gay marriage is also in the gossip news as the Cheney family seems to be enmeshed … Keep reading

U.S. Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional: What You Need to Know

Hi there,

What an exciting week!  I’m pleased to share the following alert regarding DOMA that my colleagues Lisa Cukier, Christine Fletcher and Peter Zupcofska put together today for clients and friends of our firm.  As we celebrate the fall of DOMA there are still lots of legal issues facing gay and lesbian couples in the states that don’t recognize gay marriage.

Best,

Nancy

U.S. Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional: What You Need to Know

Yesterday in a historic decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by declaring it unconstitutional. In the case, United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples living in the states that recognize their marriage are entitled to receive the same federal benefits as any other married couple in those states.This important ruling has myriad implications and touches upon many areas of law affecting same-sex couples across the country. For example, estate plans for same-sex couples were previously drafted to take advantage of benefits available within the 13 states and the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriage; nevertheless, estate plans had to be drafted around DOMA, which denied … Keep reading

Today the Supreme Court of the Unites States struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  The ruling will make a huge difference for gay couples in states where same-sex is legal, but all states will still retain their right to regulate marriage laws.

My colleagues and I are monitoring the coverage of today’s exciting ruling.  Stay tuned!

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

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Red equal sign DOMA

Hi there,

Red equal sign DOMAThis week had two days of arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court.  The first case dealt with a challenge to the California law known as Prop. 8, which overturned the California Supreme Court’s allowance of gay marriage.

The second case was of more interest to us here in Massachusetts as it dealt with the potential overturning of DOMA, which is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.  Enacted in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton, DOMA defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  As a result, in those states like Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal (and might I add the world did not end), gays who are married do not have the same federal benefits that heterosexual married couples do.  This means that gay married couples cannot file joint federal tax returns, they are denied key benefits in the military, and they lose all sorts of deductions and benefits such as survivor’s rights to Social Security benefits. When gay couples divorce they are taxed on many things at the federal level that heterosexual couples are not taxed on.  Additionally, divorcing gays cannot transfer pensions without tax consequences, there can be … Keep reading

Applying for Social Security Survivor’s Benefits During the DOMA Appeal

Hi there,

The Supreme Court announces today whether or not they are going to take up a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in a case arising out of Social Security benefits. As promised, here is a different point of view to last week’s post.  This one is authored by my partner Lisa Cukier, one of our experts in the intricacies of gay and lesbian divorce.

Best,

Nancy

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed in 1996, denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.  DOMA denies the existence of same-sex marriages by stating that marriages may only be between one man and one woman. Consequently, the federal government is allowed to deny gay spouses certain marriage-based advantages that straight spouses routinely and unquestionably receive, such as tax advantages, health and retirement benefits, Veteran’s benefits, Social Security Administration benefits and other federally based advantages, thus treating gay married Americans as second class citizens.

Social Security benefits, such as survivor’s benefits that permit a widow to receive her deceased spouse’s Social Security after her spouse’s death, are one such federal benefit. Gay widows and widowers are ineligible for their late spouse’s Social Security simply because they … Keep reading

Defense of Marriage Act and Social Security

Hi there,

An important date in the DOMA battle is coming up soon.  On November 30, the Supreme Court will announce whether it will be taking up the matter in its next term.  In light of that, there is considerable discussion of what gay and lesbian married couples should do to maximize their rights should DOMA be struck down.  This week my Burns & Levinson partner, Evelyn Haralampu, has a piece on DOMA and Social Security benefits.  Next week, our colleague Lisa Cukier will share an alternative view on the subject.

Keep reading below.

Best,

Nancy

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed in 1996 under the Clinton administration, denies federal benefits to married, same-sex couples.  Because DOMA does not recognize same-sex marriage, no federal benefits based on marriage (such as Social Security survivor benefits, joint federal income tax filing, etc.) are available to same-sex, married couples.

A number of federal courts have found DOMA unconstitutional.  In February of this year, the Obama administration ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the law.  However, for state law purposes, 32 states do not recognize same-sex marriages.  The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide … Keep reading

Hi there,

Maybe because of the date or just maybe the moon is full, but the Internet was awash with crazy stories this week that were tied (at least tangentially) to divorce.

First, yet another celebrity behaving badly and another sycophant behaving worse.  What surprised me about this was the involvement of the divorce attorney as a testifying witness!  Whatever happened to attorney-client privilege?

Then there was the case of that weird couple who named their kids after Nazis.  Apparently that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of their poor parenting.

And finally there was the wife who discovered her husband had been cheating on her, via Facebook of course.  We’ve blogged about this sort of thing before.

Separately, and on a totally serious note, there was another terrific post by Taxgirl that actually makes sense of the tax code mess created by DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and gay marriages. Way to go Kelly!

Best,

Nancy

 

**UPDATE:  Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, and related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th!… Keep reading

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Hi there,

Coming up this Thursday is the oral argument before the Federal Court in the GLAD challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

I am someone who is strongly (fervently) in favor of gay marriage.  Single sex adoption has been around for a long time and I had thought that the successful challenge for gay marriage would come when someone argued that the adoptive children of gay parents had a right to have their parents be able to marry. 

The Goodridge Case was to me, a fair and necessary decision AND the only court decision I ever read that made me teary-eyed.  As a practitioner, I have been dealing with the unequal results of the interface between the Federal and State law ever since.  It is clearly a major issue in other states too.

The Commonwealth also has a challenge to DOMA winding its way through the Federal Court system.

I am keeping my fingers crossed!

Best,

Nancy

Update (5.06.10) – Learn more about the DOMA hearing in an article I was quoted in this morning.… Keep reading

Hi There,

Happy New Year!  Tax season for 2009 has now begun. Here are 5 simple tax tips about divorce:

1.  Child support is not taxable to the recipient, or to put it more bluntly, she who pays her ex child support also pays the taxes on it.

2.  Alimony is taxable to the recipient, so he who pays childsupport as alimonyor as unallocated support, is saving the taxes; or alternatively, transferring responsibility for them to his ex.

3.  Unless you are in a single-sex marriage, all property transfers between you and your ex as part of your divorceare tax free.  I wrote about this previously here.

4.  If you and your soon-to-be-ex are dividing pensions on divorce (again only if you were not in a single-sex marriage), then there is a way to transfer pensions without any tax consequences.  It is called a qualified domestic relations order orQDRO, and there is a whole niche of the bar who do nothing else.

5. Finally, the IRS has five tips for recently married or divorced taxpayersKeep reading

Hi there!

Divorce and taxes aren’t quite as inevitable as “death and taxes,” but with one out of three marriages ending in divorce it is close.  One of the blogs I subscribe to is called taxgirl and I just read a very good article there on divorce and taxes.

One thing to remember if you are part of a single-sex, married couple is that this does not apply to you as DOMA precludes the IRS as treating you as married.

Stay cool,

Nancy… Keep reading