New York Recognizes Gay Marriage. Do Floridians Have Options?

Beginning July 24, 2011, gay couples in New York will be able to apply for a marriage license.  This will make New York the sixth and largest state to recognize gay marriage.

Florida, unlike New York, does not permit gay marriage, nor does it recognize civil unions.  But there are things that partners can do to symbolize their love for one another and create certain rights and responsibilities.  You just have to be creative.

Let me give you an example.  One of the services that my firm offers is that we represent clients in name change matters.  I have heard all different reasons why a client wants a name change, including that he or she (a) has done some things he or she is not proud of and wants to turn a new leaf, (b) wants to take on the qualities of a religious or historical figure by taking on part of that figure’s name, and (c) simply does not like his or her name.

One day, a young woman came in for a consultation, and she had a touching story to tell me.  She said that she had been dating her partner for several years, and that they wanted to get married.  But, of course, Florida does not permit gay marriage.  However, this woman decided to declare her love and commitment by legally taking on her partner’s last name.  I was able to guide her through the judicial process of symbolically affirming her dedication to her partner through a name change.

Keep in mind that, in Florida, there are requirements for a legal change of name when it does not occur through official marriage.  Some of these requirements are that the petitioner must be domiciled in Florida, must not have his or her civil rights suspended (i.e., because of a felony conviction), and must have chosen a name that does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of others (so, you probably can’t take on the last name of “Coca-Cola”).

Another alternative for homosexual partners is to enter into a “cohabitation agreement.”  This would be similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, and would define rights and responsibilities towards one another.  For example, it could define how assets and liabilities would be handled both during the relationship and in the event that the partners decided to no longer live with one another (this is the equivalent of “equitable distribution” in a divorce proceeding).  It could also state the terms under which one partner would be obliged to financially support the other partner (i.e., set the terms for “alimony”).

Such cohabitation agreements would likely be enforceable through contract law, which recognizes parties’ rights to freely enter into agreements when there has been an offer, acceptance, and consideration (the exchange of something of value or a promise to exchange something of value).

Another possibility:  adoption.  Up until last year, Florida had a ban on gay individuals adopting children.  However, based on the ruling in Florida Department of Children and Families v. In re:  the Matter of Adoption of X.X.G and N.R.G., 45 So. 3d 79 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010), homosexuality is no longer a bar to adopting a child.

Other options that gay couples should consider are health care surrogate designations, durable power of attorney grants, and estate planning choices.

Don’t let Florida’s laws be a stumbling block to the love between you and your partner.  Learn about and take advantage of the creative options that are available to you.

Adam B. Cordover is a Florida family law attorney who practices in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando, Sarasota, and Manatee counties.  To schedule a consultation with Adam B. Cordover of Family Diplomacy, call us at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

If you have questions regardi

About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
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One Response to New York Recognizes Gay Marriage. Do Floridians Have Options?

  1. Pingback: Maryland To Recognize Gay Marriage | ABC Family Law Blog

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