Gay Divorce: Not so Different Than Straight Divorce

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Alimony is not out of the question. Nor is a fight over kids or homes or cars.

“I’ve even seen fights over pets,” high-profile New York City divorce attorney Ankit Kapoor said of his experience negotiating divorces between same-sex partners.

Though Kapoor conceded, “It was a unique situation,” that’s just the thing about divorces, gay or straight:  while no two are exactly alike, they are abundantly similar in how they are conducted under the law.

And they can be either really easy or really hard, depending on the circumstances.

In Kapoor’s case, they are usually of the latter variety. He represents high net worth and celebrity clients where, as he said, the “stakes are high and there’s a lot to lose.”

“We’re talking about extensive real-estate holdings, investment interests, businesses … I have a case right now where there’s 20 different LLCs owned between the divorcing couple,” Kapoor said.

Custody, spousal support, child support — all are commonly litigated issues in Kapoor’s practice no matter the sexual orientation of the uncoupling partners. In the case of custody, specifically, Kapoor acknowledged that there are intricacies unique to same-sex couples, where surrogacy is common and both partners cannot be genetically related to the same child.

In these cases, universally applied legal principles make reaching a resolution less complex and time-consuming.

“In the eyes of the law, there is really no difference between a gay divorce and a heterosexual one,” Kapoor said. “Under New York Law, the standard for custody is what’s in the best interest of the child. So, if one parent is more stable financially, emotionally, or travels less, say, for work purposes, they would likely be named the custodian regardless of biology.”

The rules are similar in Florida. State statute 61.13 cites the “best interest of the child” as the main determinant of custody. It adds an emphasis on “children benefiting from continuing and frequent contact with both parents,” a concept that New York Law also supports.

“In most cases, the law wants to see both parents involved in their children’s lives.” Kapoor said. “And it’s usually for the best.”

In 2022, there were about 690,000 divorces in the U.S., according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Statistics on how many of these were homosexual are not readily available nor is a figure for how many same-sex divorces involved custody disputes over children. Data is sparse because same-sex marriage is still relatively new.

Same-sex marriage only became legal across the U.S., including Florida, in 2015. Massachusetts became the first state to offer marriage equality in 2004.

On the whole, contested divorces — whether it’s children, property, or assets in dispute — are the exception rather than the rule, according to Forbes Magazine.  The publication estimates that only 10% of divorces are not settled amicably.

Those that are settled amicably sometimes don’t involve lawyers at all. Such was the case for Amancio Paradela, 38, who divorced in 2022, and utilized a lawyer only briefly, and in a mostly advisory capacity.

“Ultimately, we did a simplified divorce,” Paradela, a grant writer for O Miami, said of his divorce from his husband of 10 years. “There was a packet of paperwork we filled out, submitted to the clerk, and then we were assigned a court date.  Within a couple months, it was all done.”

While not an option in all states, a simplified divorce is one in which both parties agree on the terms of the separation, including the division of assets. There can be no children involved, under Florida Law, and neither party can request spousal support. A final hearing, which must be attended by both parties, is required to conclude the process.

“We did it on Zoom,” Paradela recalled of the “10-minute” affair. “The judge looked everything over, and then we signed off as divorced men. It was really uneventful.” 

It’s a stark contrast to contested divorces, like those Kapoor handles, which can take a year or more to complete — and which sometimes require a trial that’s exhausting for all involved.

“At the end of the day, no one wants to get dragged through an ordeal like that,” Kapoor admitted.

For this reason, Kapoor, like most divorce attorneys, works hard to negotiate settlements on behalf of his clients. And even then, he conceded, “not everyone always ends up happy.”

Even Paradela, for all the ease of his divorce, didn’t necessarily find “joy” in the process: “Just because you both agree and it’s an easy process legally, doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. Divorce is not something you hope for ever.”

He added, “But at least I had the opportunity to do it.”

It underscored the reality that even in situations like divorce, which are inherently negative, there is still room for gratitude — for same-sex couples, especially.

“It’s what we fought for all those years,” Paradela said. “It wasn’t just about the right to marry. It was about wanting to be treated just like every heterosexual couple.”

And in the end, “Being able to get divorced is part of that.”


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