Divorce Attorney For Gay Couples In Queens, New York
Most people take it for granted that if their marriage runs aground, the doors of divorce court will be open to them.
However, a recent story out of Manhattan shows that for at least some people who marry in the city, accessing the courts to end the union can be more complicated than you might expect.
The case has its roots in Mayor Bloomberg’s tourism initiative “NYC I Do,” which invited gay tourists to come to New York to get married if they lived in jurisdictions that didn’t allow gay marriage.
Since New York had passed marriage-equality legislation back in 2011, city officials were eager to turn the opportunity into a public good as well as a private one, promoting “NYC I Do” on its website and through marketing channels around the world.
The concept worked, drawing couples from across the globe for a type of marriage tourism, and a combination wedding and honeymoon trip, all in one.
This is how Andrzej Gruszczynski and Wiktor Jerzy Twarkowski, of Warsaw, Poland, became husbands.
In December 2013, the pair boarded a plane and left their home country, which even now doesn’t recognize gay marriages, and flew to New York to get hitched.
They stayed in the city for a few days, and then flew back, just a couple of newlywed 30-somethings.
While Americans tend to assume that gay marriage is legal throughout Europe, that’s not fully true.
The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage all the way back in 2001, and most of Western Europe has followed suit at its own pace.
Finland and, notably, Germany only made same-sex marriage legal in 2017.
As one moves eastward across the continent, legal statuses for same-sex couples become fewer and further between.
In Poland, the nation’s constitution explicitly states that marriage is between one man and one woman, and there are no domestic partnerships or civil unions in place for gay and lesbian Poles who wish to commit to one another.
The unexpected corollary of living in a nation that doesn’t recognize that you are married is that it also won’t allow you to divorce.
There’s a certain logic to this, but a fairly Kafka-esque illogic to the situation as well, and when Andrzej and Wiktor decided in late 2016 that the marriage wasn’t working out, their options for ending it were few.
Poland is a member of the European Union, meaning that both men can travel, work, and establish residency anywhere within Europe, including nations where same-sex marriage, and same-sex divorce, are legal.
Each man wanted to protect himself from the potential of legal action from outside the country, as well as regain their independence and move on from the relationship.
Before the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land in 2015, Americans often found themselves in some version of the same predicament.
A gay or lesbian couple had traveled to a state like New York or Massachusetts that allowed them to marry, and then returned home to their state where such marriages, under local laws, simply didn’t exist.
This led to a host of negative outcomes, from property and assets not being properly transferred upon one spouse’s death, to child custody matters that state courts were unable to resolve rationally, since technically, the couple wasn’t married and in the eyes of the state, never had been.
The problem was the same for divorcing same-sex couples who had returned to or moved to states that didn’t recognize the existence of their marriage in the first place.
You’d probably assume that the solution is to file for divorce in the state where the couple married, but states typically require that at least one party to the action be a resident for a certain period of time before it will hear the divorce case.
California and some other states adopted different rules for non-resident same-sex couples who flocked there to marry before it was legal at home, waiving the residency requirement if the couple came back asking for a divorce.
New York did not waive its residency requirement for same-sex couples.
Meanwhile, Andrzej and Wiktor had decided that the best course of action was to fly back to New York and file for an uncontested divorce here, since the city had essentially invited the world’s same-sex couples to visit and get married.
Surely New York City didn’t intend for those same couples to have only limited access to the legal protections that go with marriage, including the ability to divorce.
At the end of 2016, they returned and took their paperwork to the courthouse.
After reviewing it, the clerk had some bad news for them, writing on their casefile, “Cannot file in NYS. Both parties reside in Poland. Residency requirement not met.”
The men did what anyone would in the situation, and hired a lawyer to fight the denial.
At the end of October, Justice Matthew Cooper of Manhattan Supreme Court gave Andrzej and Wiktor – and potentially, thousands of other couples – a strange gift: the right to divorce in New York even as non-residents.
“Having accepted New York’s invitation to come and exercise their right to marry as a same sex couple, the parties now find that they are being deprived of the equally fundamental right to end the marriage,” Cooper wrote in his ruling, according to the New York Post.
The case sets a new precedent in New York, and for his part, their attorney said he hoped that New York’s shifted stance on helping non-resident gay couples divorce might help more traditionalist countries examine their own legal framework when it comes to civil liberties for their gay citizens.
For Andrzej and Wiktor, the marriage didn’t work out, but they were still able to work together to make big change for themselves and many other people in their position.
There really aren’t a lot of “good divorces” in the scheme of things, but sometimes there are important ones.
Hiring A Lawyer When Filing For Divorce As A Gay Couple In Queens, New York
When your marriage in Queens is ending, experienced legal help can make a big difference for you.
If you are a married gay couple that needs a divorce in Queens, contact the legal experts at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino.
Call the team at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino today at 718-523-1111 for your free consultation with an experienced Queens divorce and child custody attorney.