The Latest News August 2021


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Legalized Marriage for the LGBTQIA+ Community: Has it Resolved All Issues?

Posted On: August 19, 2021

Legalized same sex marriage has only been available across the United States since June 26, 2015, as a result of the Supreme Court 5-4 decision in Obergefell v Hodges. This decision granted the LGBTQ Community the universal legal right to marry in any state in the United States. Prior to that, only some states permitted same sex marriage while others merely gave the right to a Civil Union.  Many people do not understand that a civil union does NOT convey the same rights as marriage. However, the majority of states still did not have laws in place to protect LGBTQ couples and their families. 

Many people believe that by giving the legal right to marry to the LGBTQ Community, it automatically conveys equal rights and in doing so has resolved all issues faced by these families. Unfortunately, that is far from true. Many of the concerns continue to exist, notwithstanding the legal right to marry. That is not to say that there are not many beneficial rights granted as a result of a legalized marriage, but there are some kinks.

One of the more significant financial rights gained by legal marriage is the right to your spouse’s social security benefits. Notwithstanding all the benefits afforded, some people still choose not to get married because of other tax consequences or for estate planning objectives.  Of course, it remains entirely an individual’s choice, but at least the right to marriage is available to everyone. 

So, what problems still exist? Well, there unfortunately are too many to cover by this brief article. But what should be made abundantly clear is that the Court System is the last place an LGBTQ couple or family should be, particularly in the event of a divorce. You would think that application of divorce laws would be universally applied and the effect for a couple whether same sex or heterosexual would be similar. Unfortunately, not having had the legal right to marry for so long puts same sex couples at a distinct disadvantage. In New York State, when you commence a divorce action, the date of filing sets the date of valuation for most marital assets. Strictly speaking, the duration of the marriage is considered to be from the date of (legal) marriage to the date of commencement of a divorce action. For many LGBTQ couples this presents a significant problem since many have been together long before the right to marriage even existed.

When considering “marital assets” during a divorce, the Court must adhere to this strict guideline. This creates different dynamics for the LGBTQ Community whose couples have been partners in life for many years prior to being able to legally marry. A couple’s specific planning, whether it be for financial security for their future retirement; how they run their daily and monthly budgets and expenses; or how they choose to make purchases of personal and real property may vary. However, from the Court’s perspective, upon a filing for divorce, the Court will NOT look back at the family’s financial history or planning objectives. The Courts are only going to look at the hard numbers and names or title of ownership of assets as of the legal date of marriage. The Court will only be concerned with what existed as of the legal date of the marriage, the date of filing for divorce and what happened in between, even if a significantly shorter time than the couple chose to be committed to each other and share their lives and resources. Therefore, the concept and application of separate versus marital property takes on a different meaning and impact for an LGBTQ couple who finds themselves in court.

Normally separate property is property that existed and was owned by one person prior to a marriage. That could be, for example, a down payment on a house that ends up jointly owned or an inheritance (whether before or during the marriage) that is maintained as separate property. However, for couples that have been together in some cases for several decades or more, prior to being able to marry, they may have commingled what was technically separate property; or at the time they were able to legally marry what was separate is now joint. Therefore, there will be no accounting for what had been separate property as there would be for a heterosexual couple, i.e., the purchase of a house that is now in joint name, savings or money market or IRAs or retirement assets that are in one person’s name alone, since they were not married at the time of its accumulation. Technically, the Court will look at those assets only from the date of the marriage and only consider the marital portion of those assets to be from the date of the marriage to the date of the filing.

As an example, if a couple is in a 36-year committed relationship, but was only able to marry six (6) years ago, the Court will not consider the 30 years prior to the date of marriage or the growth or development of their retirement assets, even if they were part of a financial plan made by the couple for “their” future life and retirement. Further if a couple contributed resources to one another’s retirement assets according to a plan they made for their mutual benefit for the future, that will NOT be considered by the Court. Likewise, accrual or growth of retirement accounts before the date of marriage WILL NOT be considered marital property.

This may seem extraordinarily harsh, and I believe it is. However, the likelihood of the Court’s treatment in such instances was affirmed directly by several NY Supreme Court judges at a recent Mediation Symposium. The judges were asked directly whether they would look at the totality of an LGBTQ relationship and how they would address a lesbian or gay couple that had been together for many years before they were permitted to marry; the judges’ indicated they would be required to adhere strictly by the law. Therefore, the Courts are only permitted to look at the time from the date of the marriage to the date of commencement for divorce for the respective valuations of assets, the ownership of assets, and separate versus marital status of these assets, but not what the parties may have intended to be for their joint benefit.

Notwithstanding there being some progressive Judges on the panel, it was clear that the LGBTQ Community is truly at risk, when we put our relationships in the hands of the Court. I know that may be true for any couple who finds themselves in the midst of a litigated case, however it is especially dangerous and significantly impactful for an LGBTQ Couple and their family.

So, what is the alternative? Well, one could try to avoid divorce all together, but when that is inevitable, you can control your and your spouse’s destiny by choosing an alternative known as the Collaborative Divorce Process. In this forum your long-term relationship and financial planning can be recognized and contemplated in the settlement agreement. Further a team of professionals are available to help secure your family’s future in a manner you see fit and specific to your family dynamic. These professionals help find creative solutions. Together with a team the LGBTQ Community can divorce confidentially and with dignity. The benefits or alternative methods/processes, of Collaborate Divorce and Mediation, will protect your family from the potential harm of the Courts.

For a free consultation about the Collaborative Divorce Process, contact any one of the professionals of the LICDP.

Written by Concetta G. Spirio, Esq.
Photo courtesy of LICDP


‘Unchain Your Wife’: The Orthodox Women Shining A Light On ‘Get’ Refusal

Posted On: August 12, 2021

This article highlights an ongoing controversy within the Jewish community, regarding the religious requirements in obtaining a divorce.  In Monsey, a hamlet in upstate New York, which has an established Orthodox Jewish community, there appears to be a large billboard that states in big block letters, “Dovid Wasserman.  Give your wife a get!”  For those unfamiliar, a “get” is a document Orthodox Jewish men give their wives as they complete a divorce.  It in essence seals the divorce according to their religious laws.

However, it is the husband who decides, if and when the divorce is final, and can actually withhold the “get”, thereby preventing his ex-wife from moving on with her life or continuing to be part of the Jewish community.  If a woman does not receive a “get”, she is literally considered a “chained woman” because she remains chained to her former marriage and unable to move forward with her life within the community.  If she chooses to exercise her rights under a legal divorce, it will not be accepted by the religious community, since she did not obtain a “get”.  She in essence would be shunned.

A woman is truly limited on what she can do if a husband absolutely refuses to give a “get” and many times Rabbis of the community are impotent to help.  For the woman in this article and her children, this ordeal has been going on for more than 7 years and their interpretation is that the refusal to “give a get” is equivalent to abuse

This woman’s experience is not unique and in fact, for those in the LGBTQ community, it can be even more devastating.  For an LGBTQ person they may have to make a choice between their life, their children’s lives and being a part of their religious community and their family connections or total abandonment of their life and start a new life elsewhere.

This is a horrifying dilemma for Orthodox Jewish women wishing to divorce; but obviously it’s an issue that cannot be resolved from the outside but rather from within.  For those who cannot wait for resolution or evolution to happen, there are woman and children who are faced with dire choices to make.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Caren Chesler,
Royalty-free photo courtesy of Unsplash

Concetta Spirio.  A Compassionate Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator & Peacemaker Providing The Highest Level of Legal Representation For Over 34 Years.

#Concetta #ConcettaSpirio #ConcettaLaw #SpirioLaw #Marriage #Divorce #RealEstate #Litigation #Wills #Trusts #Estates #Mediation #CollaborativeDivorce #LongIsland #Suffolk #Nassau #Islip #Sayville #LGBT #OrthodoxJew #Orthodox #Get #JewishDivorce


Biden Announces 2 Historic LGBTQ Judicial Nominees; One Could Become First Out Lesbian To Serve On Any Federal Circuit Court

Posted On: August 12, 2021

President Biden announced on Thursday two historic nominations for the federal bench, in his sixth round of names for federal judicial positions.

If confirmed by the Senate, Beth Robinson would be the first out lesbian to serve on any federal circuit court; while Charlotte Sweeney would be the first openly LGBTQ federal judge in Colorado, and also the first out lesbian to serve as a federal district court judge in any state west of the Mississippi.

These choices “continue to fulfill the President’s promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds,” the White House said Thursday in a press release.

Robinson, who was nominated for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, has served as an Associate Justice on the Vermont Supreme Court since 2011. She’s also the state’s first openly LGBTQ Supreme Court justice.

Prior to her appointment, she served as counsel to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin from 2010 to 2011. As head of Vermont Freedom to Marry, she was a key backer of a 2009 law that made Vermont the first state to offer full marriage to same-sex couples without a court order telling lawmakers to do so.

Robinson is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago Law School.

Charlotte Sweeney, Biden’s other historical judicial pick, is a Denver-based lawyer and a founding partner of Sweeney & Bechtold, LLC, a law firm that specializes in handling employment law matters.

She was nominated to the District Court for the District of Colorado.

The Colorado-native focuses on employment law and has devoted her legal practice to assisting and representing individuals who have faced unfair practices in the workplace.

Sweeney is a graduate of California Lutheran University and University of Denver College of Law. She has been an active supporter of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since 2010 and joined the organization’s board of directors in 2016.

LGBTQ rights advocates applauded the historic nominations.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Muri Assuncao, NY Daily News

Royalty-free photo courtesy of UnSplash

Concetta Spirio.  A Compassionate Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator & Peacemaker Providing The Highest Level of Legal Representation For Over 34 Years.

#Concetta #ConcettaSpirio #ConcettaLaw #SpirioLaw #Marriage #Divorce #RealEstate #Litigation #Wills #Trusts #Estates #Mediation #CollaborativeDivorce #LongIsland #Suffolk #Nassau #Islip #Sayville #LGBT


This Virginia School Board Just Passed An Inclusive Policy For Transgender And Gender-Expansive Students

Posted On: August 12, 2021

A Virginia school board whose heated meeting in June gained national attention has voted to expand the rights of its transgender and gender-expansive students.

The Loudoun County School Board voted Wednesday on a policy that allows transgender student athletes to play on teams based on their gender identity; allows transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity; and requires teachers, faculty and staff to refer to students by their preferred names and pronouns.

Additionally, all school mental health professionals in Loudoun County Public Schools are required to undergo "training on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including procedures for preventing and responding to bullying, harassment and discrimination based on gender identity/expression," according to the new policy.
      Failure to follow the new policy will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

      Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN
      Royalty-free photo courtesy of UnSplash

      Concetta Spirio.  A Compassionate Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator & Peacemaker Providing The Highest Level of Legal Representation For Over 34 Years.

      #Concetta #ConcettaSpirio #ConcettaLaw #SpirioLaw #Marriage #Divorce #RealEstate #Litigation #Wills #Trusts #Estates #Mediation #CollaborativeDivorce #LongIsland #Suffolk #Nassau #Islip #Sayville #LGBT


      5 Reasons People Get Divorced When They're Older & Nobody Is Expecting It

      Posted On: August 02, 2021

      This article talks about a “gray divorce”.  A “gray divorce” refers to divorces that occur later in life and involve spouses who are 50 years or older. 

      Divorce is difficult at any age, but a gray divorce can have its own specific challenges.  Many times the plans for retirement and finances to sustain retirement are part of a complex long term plan, involving both people and their individual assets.  Looking to separate and divide retirement assets may not afford each person of the couple to live as they intended in retirement.  This obviously creates its own unique set of challenges as well as emotions. 

      Other than losing a spouse or a child, a divorce sometimes is the most traumatic and painful experience one can have in life.  The emotions that are typically involved can be exacerbated when dealing with an older individual, whom many times have been married for more than half of their life.

      There is also a great misconception on how a “gray divorce” affects adult children.  Many times our perception is that adult children are in a better position to handle divorce.  Although that may be the case, many times and more often than not, adult children have as much trauma in navigating their parents divorce as do young children. 

      This article examines five common reasons why gray divorce happens to older couples.  As in any divorce, you need the proper professionals to help you navigate such a difficult process.  This is why collaborative divorce and the professionals of the Long Island Collaborative Divorce Professionals are best suited and trained to help couples through this difficult time and help find creative solutions.  No matter what age, put yourselves in the best hands to navigate your divorce with integrity and dignity.  We are here to answer any questions you may have.

      Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Babita Spinelli of
      Royalty-free photo courtesy of UnSplash

      Concetta Spirio.  A Compassionate Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator & Peacemaker Providing The Highest Level of Legal Representation For Over 34 Years.

      #Concetta #ConcettaSpirio #ConcettaLaw #SpirioLaw #Marriage #Divorce #RealEstate #Litigation #Wills #Trusts #Estates #Mediation #CollaborativeDivorce #LongIsland #Suffolk #Nassau #Islip #Sayville #LGBT #GrayDivorce