Although same-sex marriage has now been legalized across all states, many may still choose the route of a domestic partnership or civil union. While Pennsylvania does not offer the option of a civil union or domestic partnership, instead only offering same-sex marriages, if a same-sex couple moves within the bounds of the state, their partnership will be recognized. However, should the couple run into any issues in their relationship, they may also find issues in court when they try to dissolve their partnership. Because same-sex marriage is now legal, a majority of these domestic partnerships can be recognized as marriages, and will go through the same process for divorce. However, if the spouses remain legally committed to their domestic partnership instead of a marriage, they will have a separate process for dissolving the partnership that is somewhat simpler than divorce.
On top of this, it may be necessary to dissolve a domestic partnership if the couple is now pursuing other partners. A domestic partnership in another state can invalidate one's chances at marriage in a new state. These situations can sometimes be remedied through Pennsylvania's legal system.
Dissolving A Domestic Partnership
There are two ways to go about dissolving a domestic partnership, or other out-of-state civil union, in Pennsylvania. These include Equity Jurisdiction and Comity. If a court, for whatever reason, is not able or not willing to dissolve the partnership, the couple must dissolve the partnership in the state that recognizes it.
Equity Jurisdiction is used to dissolve partnerships from other states. The process is meant to remedy situations and protect the rights of spouses. This method can be used for former domestic partners that find themselves unable to dissolve their relationship, or enter into any new and legally recognized relationship. It is most commonly used when the state that recognized the domestic partnership does not have laws that explicitly set the domestic partnership as equal to a marriage.
Comity is a doctrine of common law that allows a state to make decisions on matters that were decided by other states. Comity can only be utilized so long as the laws of the states are not in direct conflict with one another. This method is commonly used in circumstances where domestic partnerships or civil unions are on equal ground with marriage in the state. The couple can go through the usual divorce proceedings, as Pennsylvania will recognize the partnership as a marriage through comity. Once this is done the dissolution becomes a bit more complex as the couple must now go through Pennsylvania's process for divorce.
While these two processes CAN be used in Pennsylvania to dissolve a domestic partnership recognized and legitimized by another state, they are not always applicable. Sometimes, depending on the situation, the court may not be able to or may not want to dissolve the partnership, and the couple must do so through their original state.
If you or loved one is involved in matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.