Same Sex Issues

On October 10, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., declared Amendment One unconstitutional.  That law had prohibited same sex partners from marrying in North Carolina.  Judge Coburn’s ruling means that now same sex couples can marry in our state.  Also same sex couples who were married in another state are now recognized as valid marriages in NC.  Therefore, if a same sex married partner wants to divorce, s/he can now  seek a divorce in North Carolina.  If you and your same sex spouse decided to have a child together, but only one of you is legally the parent of  the child, your spouse may now be able to adopt the child.   

In North Carolina, the property division laws now also apply to same sex marriages, just as they do to other marriages.  Further unmarried partners may also seek division of assets which were acquired during their partnership.  

It is important that your attorney have experience in handling same sex partnership dissolutions.  Not only does Ms. Matthews have experience in addressing property divisions but also Ms. Matthews had the first case in North Carolina to address the custodial rights of a partner when the same sex relationship ended.  Ms. Matthews successfully argued and created the North Carolina precedent that when a same sex couple created and raised the child together, the biological parent of the child could not deny her partner's parental rights to their child.     See Mason v. Dwinnell. 660 S.E.2d 58 190 N.C.App. 209.

This landmark North Carolina family law case was tried by Ms. Matthews in the trial court for three weeks and later successfully defended in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  This case was the first case in North Carolina recognizing a same sex partner’s right to seek custodial and visitation rights over the children of the partnership, even if they were not the “biological” parent. The Court of Appeals (our State’s mid-level court) recognized and granted Ms. Matthews’ client, equal legal and physical custodial rights to the child after the partners separated.    A few years later, while invalidating second parent adoptions, the NC Supreme Court explained that same sex partners could nevertheless seek custodial rights of their nonbiological children using the Mason principles.  In so doing, the NC Supreme Court confirmed the legality of the Mason case.  The Mason case continues to be the only legal precedent in North Carolina granting same sex partners the right to assert custodial rights to their nonbiological children.

Gabriela Matthews is a member of the North Carolina Gay Advocacy Legal Alliance and listed in their directory as an LGBT-friendly attorney.  She is also the proud owner of an "honorary lesbian" button bestowed upon her by her gay and lesbian friends and colleagues after winning the Mason case.

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Gabriela J. Matthews
& Associates, P.A.
100 E. Parrish St., Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701

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Office Hours:  Monday - Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Phone: (919) 956-7888 
Fax: (855) 422-6288

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