LGBTQ Family Law in PA “Total Chaos” Plus Advice from Dear Abby

From the Post-Gazette

An audience member asked whether it was true that same-sex couples could file a joint return in a state like Massachusetts but couldn’t do so in Pennsylvania. The panel uniformly answered yes.

“It’s total chaos,” said Tiffany Palmer of Jerner & Palmer.

Whether to get married and where involves an individual analysis for each couple, Ms. Palmer said.

Now I’m glad people are asking questions. And asking lawyers.

Federal recognition of your marriage – assuming you live in Pennsylvania – varies based on two standards, the place of residence (PA) and the place of celebration (where you were married.) Here’s a taste of how complicated it can be.

Under the place-of-celebration rule, agencies will recognize rights and benefits to same-sex couples if the marriage was obtained in a place where same-sex marriages are legal, Ms. Levin said.

Under the place-of-domicile rule, agencies will recognize benefits and legal rights to couples who live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, she said. Under that rule, a couple married in Vermont, for example, but living in Pennsylvania would not be eligible for that agency’s benefits.

Ms. Levin gave a quick rundown of how certain agencies come down on the issue. Immigration follows place of celebration while Medicaid and Medicare follow place-of-residency rules. Military spousal benefits operate under place of celebration but veterans’ benefits seem to follow place of residency, Ms. Levin said.

Now I have learned that the Social Security Administration has begun accepting applications for survival benefits but has not yet decided how to process them – by domicile or celebration.

It is a pretty good article, but note that it doesn’t touch families with children which will become vastly more confusing when you start to factor in adoption, second parent adoption, known donors, custody arrangements, student loan applications and so forth.

Please see a lawyer, especially if you are engaging in civil disobedience by getting married via Montgomery County – won’t you be surprised one day if the court says “hey you are married” and you haven’t arranged the legal issues?

FWIW, my friends at Bilerico Project published this excerpt from Dear Abby

“Invite your family to the wedding. Because they love you and have accepted your partner, they may wish to attend. Remember, the concept of marriage equality is a very new one and not everyone adapts quickly to change.” (There’s more, click the link)

See a lawyer!

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