It’s More than Marriage

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by Danielle Hawks, Esq.

You’re getting married, congratulations! Marriage is one of the best parts of life. It means it is time to plan your lives together. Planning is fun and will give you a path toward your goals and common understandings.

After marriage equality, we received thousands of rights. For example, the wife of a biological mother can now have her name placed on the child’s birth certificate. However, did you know that birth certificates are Utah agency documents and are not necessarily afforded the full faith and credit guaranteed by our federal constitution? This issue could become a concern for parents going to other states or foreign countries. In addition, for couples that plan to use surrogacy, the matters can become more complicated. Yes, we have marriage equality, but our cases can still become complicated.

As a queer divorce and custody attorney, there is planning I recommend to avoid pit falls. I would recommend talking to an accountant about what it means to file jointly. It can mean an extra tax burden. You may also want to talk to an estate planning attorney about wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives, and final arrangement documents. These documents allow you and your partner to plan for when times get tough. After all, for better or worse is the deal. If you and your partner have disproportionate assets, or if one of you owns a business, or one has a significant inheritance, you will certainly want to discuss the benefits of a prenuptial agreement with an estate planning attorney.

When the babies come, do not forget second parent adoption. Many people assume this is no longer needed. However, I am recommending them to my clients. I want to be sure their relationship to the children is afforded the full faith and credit that court decrees receive. If you would like help, there are many queer-friendly attorneys that can assist. However, an attorney is not absolutely required for this procedure. You can find the documents and instructions at https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/family/adoption/stepchild/.

Our community is blessed with excellent professionals that work in accounting, estate planning, financial planning, and, when needed, litigation. Many have practiced in the queer community for decades. I always recommend seeking these professionals’ assistance to plan for your future rather than paying me triple to clean up the pieces if they, god forbid, fall apart.

Danielle Hawkes is a partner of The Salt Lake Lawyers, a litigation firm that works in criminal, divorce, and civil litigation in Utah. She received her law degree in 2010 from the University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law. 

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