Same-sex divorce allowed only in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Same-sex couples in Kansas who have gotten married in Iowa or elsewhere have limited options to end their marriages in Kansas, according to experts.

Iowa, where same-sex marriages are legal, doesn’t have a residency requirement to get married but requires same-sex couples to live in the state for at least a year before they can divorce. So when marriages among Kansans fail, getting a same-sex divorce can be much more difficult in Kansas, which not only doesn’t allow same-sex marriages, but doesn’t recognize that such marriages performed in other states legally existed, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1jslSew ).

Thomas Witt, director of the Wichita-based Kansas Equality Coalition, said Douglas County is apparently the only county in Kansas that has issued divorces for same-sex couples.

“I don’t know of any other jurisdictions that will grant a divorce to a same-sex couple,” Witt said. “The only one I know of specifically is Douglas County.”

The most recent case in Douglas County, which includes the city of Lawrence, occurred earlier this month when Lisa Goans and Marian Dawson were divorced after being married two years earlier in Adair County, Iowa.

Attorney David Brown, who handled that case, said he knows of only three same-sex divorces granted in Kansas, and those all were in Douglas County. At least two other counties, Shawnee and Johnson, will annul marriages. Other counties find the marriage is invalid and dismiss the divorce petitions.

An annulment may help couples get out of a marriage, Brown said, but it raises other legal issues because while a divorce ends a marriage, an annulment cancels a marriage “so that legally speaking it’s as though it never happened.”

“It leaves folks who get an annulment in Kansas with the unanswered question about how any other jurisdiction — Iowa or the federal government — will recognize the annulment,” he said.

Brown said that legal limbo could interfere with the ability of either party in the couple to remarry.

 

 

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