Florida bankruptcy filing adds to the challenges against DOMA

On behalf of Bankruptcy Law Firm of Clare Casas on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law that defines a marriage as between a man and a woman. While several states have already enacted legislation of their own to legalize same-sex marriage, DOMA still prevents these couples from taking advantage of certain benefits offered to married heterosexual couples on a federal level.

There have been several challenges to the constitutionality of this law, which the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on at some point this summer. Now, a married same-sex couple from Florida who filed jointly for bankruptcy protection has added another challenge to that law.

The couple was married in Vermont and owned a home in Kansas. After falling behind on mortgage payments, they were forced to walk away from their home. The couple found their way to Florida where their same-sex marriage is not recognized under state law. With approximately $75,000 owed to creditors, the couple made the decision to seek financial protection through bankruptcy. In an effort to save a little bit of money, they chose to file jointly.

Bankruptcy is a process that is conducted in federal court and under Title 11 of the United States Code. So even though the couple was legally married in Vermont, the federal bankruptcy process does not recognize that marriage. This is not the first time that a same-sex couple has run into financial problems together nor is it the first time that same-sex couples have jointly filed for bankruptcy. However, this specific case has caught national attention -- and the couple is looking for a national answer.

Same-sex marriage has opened up new issues in the debt relief industry. Gay and lesbian couples considering bankruptcy should consult with an attorney about the process.

Source: Total Bankruptcy, "Gay Couple Makes History by Filing for Joint Bankruptcy Help," John Clark, May 6, 2013

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