Continuing Ripples After the Windsor Decision

Handed down in June 2013, United States v. Windsor is one of the most momentous decisions to come out of the Supreme Court in years. While we have previously discussed the direct effect of this case on our other blog, (see Attorney Magnano’s blog posts from March and August of 2013) we thought it was worth touching upon again. This is because the Windsor decision has led to a number of legal after-effects in the past few months.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a significant portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The result was that the federal government must now recognize any marriage that was legally effectuated under state law. This is of particular import in Connecticut because of our recognition of same-sex marriage in 2008.

The controversy at issue in Windsor was the spousal exemption to the federal estate tax, but the decision had numerous immediate ramifications beyond taxes, including Social Security and veterans benefits and other federal programs. As the months have passed, however, an increasing number of effects have surfaced:

  • Immigration benefits, including the ability to petition for permanent residence and benefits for those seeking citizenship through naturalization are now extended to same-sex couples with recognized marriages.
  • Spousal privilege, the legal right not to be forced to testify against one’s spouse in court, is extended to same-sex couples in federal court.
  • Considerations extended to spouses by the U.S. military now apply to same-sex couples.
  • Bankruptcy benefits available to married couples are extended to same-sex couples.
  • Considerations extended to married prisoners and their spouses are extended to same-sex couples when one partner is incarcerated in federal prison.

The U.S. attorney general has announced an aggressive policy of implementing Windsor throughout the federal bureaucracy, and it is likely more benefits may surface in the future. In the meantime, family law attorneys should pay extra attention to the many indirect ways that the Windsor decision could affect their clients. Flaherty Legal Group in Connecticut keeps abreast of all developments concerning family and divorce law.  Attorneys James Flaherty, Sandi Girolamo and Pamela Magnano will work to place you in the best financial situation possible after your divorce.