Same-Sex Marriage & Divorce Update

Updated:  Same-sex couples may now marry and divorce in Missouri.

This is what we know about Missouri same-sex marriages as of October 6, 2014:

  • Judge Youngs in Kansas City ruled on October 3, 2014 that Sections 451.022 and 104.012 of the Missouri Statutes and Article 1, Section 33 of the Missouri Constitution violate the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.  In summary, this means that assuming this judgment is not overturned on appeal, the State of Missouri must now recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed outside of Missouri.

What does this mean for same-sex couples wanting a divorce in Missouri?

  • Although Judge Youngs’ ruling in Barrier v. Vasterling applies to the defendants (state and city officials in Missouri) and requires these defendants to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed outside of Missouri, it is unclear whether same-sex couples will now be allowed to divorce in Missouri.
  • One possible outcome is that, until a higher level court rules on this issue, circuit court judges may decide whether to allow same-sex divorces to move forward in their divisions.  It is also possible judges may await further clarification from the Missouri Supreme Court.

Here’s what we will be watching:

  • Will Attorney General Koster appeal the ruling in Barrier?  If he does not appeal the Barrier decision, Judge Youngs’ ruling will remain in place and Missouri will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  LATE UPDATE: Attorney General Koster has decided not to appeal Judge Youngs’ ruling in Barrier v. Vasterling.  See the full statement here.
  • A case relating to same-sex divorce is currently pending at the Missouri Supreme Court.  This case should provide a direct answer as to whether same-sex couples may divorce in Missouri.  We expect a decision soon.
  • As a result of the Barrier decision, we expect same-sex divorce petitions to be filed throughout Missouri.  We will be watching to see how individual circuit judges proceed on this issue.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to prepare for a possible divorce proceeding as we await clarity on this issue.  If you have additional questions, please contact us.