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Property division issues facing same-sex couples

The Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states opened the door to benefits that many couples in Los Angeles may have been waiting years for. At the same time, it also introduced a whole new set of issues that some are now forced to deal with. Whereas same-sex couples who were not joined in marriages or civil unions in the past could end their relationships without having to deal with the same challenges that come with a divorce, those that have since married and are now choosing to separate must address them. This includes dealing with topics such as spousal maintenance, child support and property division. 

According to the website for the state's Judicial Branch, California is recognized as being a community property state. What this means is that property purchased by a married couple (or one joined through a domestic partnership) is considered to be shared. Property begins to be recognized as belonging to an individual "community" (couple) as soon as the pair are joined in marriage or a domestic partnership. Yet what about property purchased by a couple that was living together but not married? 

Given that information shared by CNBC shows that nearly twice as many same-sex couples were cohabitating prior to the 2015 court decision as there are now, this is a problem that may easily be encountered if and when such a couple chooses to divorce. By the definition of the law, any property acquired by a same-sex couple during their cohabitation yet prior to their marriage may be viewed as legally belonging solely to the party that purchased, earned or was gifted it. In such a case, the non-owning party may have to try to convince his or her former partner to recognize his or her right to it. 

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