Ft. Lauderdale, FL- Heather Brassner has been trying for years to get a divorce from her partner, whom she married in 2002 in Vermont, and has been met with challenge after challenge. It appears that her fight to end her same-sex marriage is over.
Today, in a brief hearing, Broward County Judge Dale Cohen dissolved Brassner’s marriage to Megan Lade, making this the first same-sex divorce for the state of Florida.
“It’s like an emotional weight being lifted off,” Brassner told the Ocala Star Banner. “I just feel free and I couldn’t have gotten a better holiday gift.”
Brassner tried to find Lade and petitioned the state of Vermont, where they married, to get a divorce, but she was denied. Brassner even went so far as to hire a private investigator to find Lade, but her ex was nowhere to be found. Without a signed affidavit, Vermont refused to grant Brassner and divorce. She then began her fight with Florida. It took years but now she’s free to move on with her life.
Brassner’s divorce attorney Nancy Brodzki said she expects Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi to appeal the decision.
Judge Cohen is the same judge, who ruled in August, that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and violates a person’s right to equal protection and due cause.
In his ruling, Judge Cohen wrote, “The State of Florida cannot ignore the status and dignity afforded to opposite-sex couples, who were married out-of-state, and not extend those same rights, dignities and benefits to same-sex couples similarly situated.”
Neither Brassner’s newly granted divorce, nor Judge Cohen’s August decision will affect same-sex marriage in Florida. His decision does not mean any same-sex marriage licenses can be issued in Broward County.
AG Bondi has until January 5th to file an appeal.
With bans on same-sex marriage falling away across the country, more and more couples could find themselves in the same predicament as Brassner. When a same-sex marriage is not recognized in the state a couple lives, their options for seeking a divorce are limited. Because their marriage is not legally recognized, often these couples must return to the state where they married and stay there long enough to meet the state’s residency requirements. This can be nearly impossible for some couples.
Same-sex couples can turn to a divorce attorney to inform them about the divorce laws in their state and how they can go about untying the knot. They may find they have to jump through more hoops to have their marriages dissolved. But with the right legal help the process can be made less painful.
Just as with heterosexual couples, same-sex divorce can get even more complicate when there is the issue of child custody. Without the same protections as straight couples, same-sex couples are at a serious disadvantage. That makes it all the more crucial for a same-sex couple to retain a divorce attorney to help them will all of their divorce-related issues.