Questions Arise Over Whether “Pregnant Man” May Legally Divorce His Partner

Husband and Wife marry in Hawaii.

After moving to Arizona, Husband and Wife have three children born during their marriage.

Husband files for divorce in Arizona.

But the Arizona family court may not grant the couple a divorce…

Because it may not recognize their marriage.

Because Husband was born a woman in Hawaii.

Husband underwent a sex change operation to become a man prior to his marriage to Wife.

But Husband remains a woman internally

And Husband was the spouse who physically bore the three children born while the couple were together.

(Husband reportedly flaunted a beard while pregnant.)

After Husband’s sex change operation, Hawaii recognized Husband as a man, and recognized his marriage to Wife. (But Hawaii also recognizes same sex marriages.)

Arizona, however, apparently views Husband as a female and, therefore, a partner in a gay relationship. Not a marriage, because Arizona does not recognize gay marriage.

And, once again, although in a somewhat novel way, a US state faces the question of whether to entertain divorce for a marriage that could not legally be entered in that state, although it was legally valid in the US state in which it was entered.

The case may also raise unexpected questions regarding child custody of the three children if Husband is held to be their birth mother and Wife is held to be “merely” Husband’s gay partner and not their mother.

An interesting case to follow.

Read more in this New York Daily News article: ‘Pregnant man’ files for divorce – but Arizona questions whether he was actually married and this West Palm Beach WPTV News Channel 5 article: Thomas Beatie, ‘pregnant man,’ files for divorce from wife Nancy Beatie; Judge questions marriage.

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US Supreme Court Holds That Respondents in Child Support Contempt Proceedings Are Entitled to Legal Due Process, Including Legal Representation or Alternative Procedural Safeguards, Where the Respondent Is At Risk of Confinement

South Carolina Mother and Father have a child together, but then break up.

Father is court-ordered to pay Mother child support.

Father falls behind in his child support obligations.

Mother, who is represented by counsel, mounts a contempt case to enforce Father’s child support obligations to her.

At trial in family court, Father, who has no lawyer, tries to explain to the Court why he hasn’t paid child support.

The family court judge disregards Father’s explanation and sentences Father to a year in jail on the contempt charge.

Thanks to pro bono counsel, Father appeals, and his case rises to the United States Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court reverses and remands Father’s case back to family court. But the Court does not hold that there is an automatic right to counsel in civil contempt cases where the defending parent faces incarceration.

Instead, the Supreme Court bases its reversal on broader (and somewhat more vague) due process grounds. Specifically, the Supreme Court finds that the family court failed to follow any procedural safeguards to ensure that Father not be held in contempt unless his failure to pay child support is indeed willful.

In Father’s case, the family court reportedly ignored Father’s offered explanation and makes no express finding about Father’s ability to pay. But sentences Father to a year in jail anyway.

The Supreme Court finds error in Mother’s representation by legal counsel in the child support enforcement proceedings, with none to the Father who faces confinement. And concludes that due process entitles Father to a level playing field.

In the form of legal representation or alternative procedural safeguards that protect the rights of the defendant facing incarceration where the plaintiff has legal representation.

Read more in this ABA Journal article: Supreme Court Finds No Automatic Right to Counsel in Child Support Contempt Proceedings and the Surpreme Court’s full opinion.

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Wannabe Sheriff is Arrested on Contempt Charges in His Contested Family Court Divorce Case

Florida Husband and Wife are in the middle of what sounds like a contentious divorce.

Husband is jailed for criminal contempt in connection with his divorce case … for filing in the case written attacks on the judge presiding over his family court case.

Husband has also reportedly been arrested for contempt previously, several months ago.

The current contempt charges against Husband are dismissed, however, when he apologizes to the judge he criticized.

Husband has reportedly been arrested several other times, but it does not appear that he has been convicted of any charges to date.

The judge dismissing the current charges is the eleventh different judge to preside over Husband’s divorce case. The others all recused themselves.

Husband is also allegedly being investigated by Alabama’s state security and exchange commission.

Husband is running for sheriff of a Florida county.

Read more in this Northwest Florida Daily News article: Sheriff candidate arrested on contempt charges (ARREST REPORT) and this Northwest Florida Daily News article: Contempt charge against sheriff candidate dismissed.

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Domestic Violence or Mercy Killing? Husband Shoots Wife of Forty-Five Years

Husband and Wife, both in their 60s, have been married for 45 years.

Wife develops a life-threatening medical condition. Wife is being cared for in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

Husband enters Wife’s hospital room. With a gun.

And shoots Wife.

The next day, Wife is determined to be brain dead.

Husband is arrested immediately after the shooting, initially on a charge of attempted murder, which may be stepped up to murder.

Law enforcement authorities have variously characterized the incident as one of domestic violence … or an attempted mercy killing, intended to relieve Wife’s suffering.

It is unknown whether the couple have any history of domestic violence, or whether Husband has any criminal history or history of domestic violence restraining orders of protection against him.

Read more in this New York Daily News article: Police: Ohio man shoots wife of 45 years as she lays in intensive care unit

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Going Directly From a Civil Union to a Gay Marriage? Stop. Do Not Pass Go. Return to Divorce Court Immediately.

Gay Husband and Friend enter a civil union in Vermont. Their relationship breaks down over time and Husband moves on.

To Massachusetts, which allows same sex marriages. And Husband then marries Groom there.

Four years later, that relationship breaks down and Husband files for divorce. And this is where it gets interesting.

Groom denies the divorce claim, asserting that their marriage is void and invalid due to Husband’s previous civil union, which was never legally dissolved. Rendering Husband’s marriage to Groom bigamous, Groom contends.

Arguably, the fact that Vermont first legalized civil unions for gay partners and subsequently legalized gay marriage for gay partners supports the argument that civil unions and marriages are not the same thing.

But this case wends its way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Which holds that the Vermont civil union is the equivalent of marriage and did indeed need to be dissolved prior to marrying in Massachusetts.

In Masssachusetts at least, bigamy laws are not confined to heterosexual marriages.

And, if Massachusett’s ruling is adopted elsewhere, those who formally enter into civil unions will no longer be able to simply pick up and leave without attending to the legal formalities of dissolution.

Read more in this Wall Street Journal piece: Massachusetts Court: Civil Union “Equivalent” To Marriage.

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Finally: Beneficiary Designations of Other Spouse (Generally) Voided Upon Divorce

Husband and Wife accumulate various financial accounts.

Each makes their accounts payable to the other in the event of their death.

Their wills designate each other as their respective primary beneficiary.

Then Husband’s and Wife’s marriage suddenly falls apart.

They divorce. Final judgment is entered.

Husband dies.

Neither had a chance to update their wills or account beneficiary designations.

Does Wife inherit under Husband’s will and payable on death accounts?

Until recently, the answer would have been: yes.

This generally surprises people, who just assume it is otherwise.

Florida’s legislature agrees though and has just changed Florida law to void many (but not all) types of inheritances by an ex spouse.

One key section voids any provision in a will that mentions the ex-spouse, unless the will or divorce final judgment provides otherwise.

This section protects divorced former spouses from any oversight in updating their intended inheritance beneficiaries.

But also allows for the possibility that someone may wish for their ex to inherit from them, even after divorce, and will honor such a bequest or beneficiary designation made after their divorce. The law also recognizes that this type of inheritance may be used as a tool in a property division.

Another new section of the Florida statutes voids any gift in a will or beneficiary designation to an ex-spouse which is made after the divorce is final.

This applies to most financial accounts, life insurance, annuities, employee benefit plans, retirement accounts, payable on death accounts and securities accounts.

With some exceptions.

Such as where:

  • federal law applies and provides otherwise

  • the beneficiary designation is made after the divorce

  • the beneficiary is a will or trust

  • the final judgment requires the ex to manage the asset for their children

  • the ex could not legally terminate the beneficiary designation

  • the exes remarry

Read more in this Florida statutes, section 732,507 Effect of subsequent marriage, birth, adoption, or dissolution of marriage and this Florida statute, section 732.703 Effect of divorce, dissolution, or invalidity of marriage on disposition of certain assets at death.

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