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The high cost of same-sex divorce

NEW YORK -- A patchwork of state marriage laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act has made the process of unraveling a relationship extremely difficult -- and expensive.

A same-sex couple who marries in one state and later relocates to a state that doesn't recognize the marriage, for example, may be unable to get a traditional divorce. Often, they either have to move to the state where they married to establish residency or dissolve the marriage outside of the court system. Some states call this a dissolution of marriage instead of a divorce.

In most cases, this means filing a civil lawsuit -- or multiple lawsuits. With no threat of a trial or a judge to make a ruling, couples often get stuck in negotiations and the lawyer fees can really pile up, said Kevin Maillard, a law professor at Syracuse University specializing in nontraditional families.

For an out-of-court settlement in states where same-sex marriage isn't recognized, a same-sex divorce typically costs around $20,000, versus $10,000 for an opposite-sex couple, said Randall Kessler, a partner at Kessler & Solomiany Family Law Attorneys in Atlanta.

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