Does Gender Transition Affect The Divorce Process?

While many gender transitions begin in the formative, early years, it's not as though there's an age limit. Caitlyn Jenner is a notable example, as she was in her mid 60s when she came out as a transgender woman. It's increasingly common for people to transition later in life, often long after they've married and become parents. If part of your transition journey involves the end of your marriage, is the process of divorce any different when you're transgender?

A Changed Dynamic 

Divorce doesn't automatically follow when one spouse transitions. However, this can be the outcome for many transgender people. There's no one universal reason for this, but when many spouses consider themselves to be heterosexual and want to be married to a person of the opposite sex, the transition can irreparably change this dynamic. And yet, gender transition cannot invalidate a marriage.

Regardless of the genders of the spouses, transition does not impact the validity of a marriage, since same-sex marriage has been legal in all 50 US states since 26 June 2015. Prior to this, many parties sought to annul their marriage on the basis of their spouse's transition, but this is no longer permissible. 

Irreconcilable Differences or No-Fault

Gender transition does create grounds for divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences, with one spouse viewing the other's transition as a change to the relationship that is in fact irreconcilable. This doesn't necessarily signify any animosity, and the divorce may still be perfectly amicable. Alternatively, the divorce may be categorized as no-fault. Not all divorces can be amicable, and you might need to be prepared for the fact that your spouse will use your transition against you, seeking to exploit it as leverage during your divorce. 

An Advocate

It's helpful to hire a divorce lawyer with experience in assisting transgender clients. Any divorce lawyer must be an efficient advocate for their clients, but this can be more relevant in matters of gender transitioning and child custody. Of course, being transgender does not in any way affect your ability to parent your children, and you need an experienced lawyer to firmly remind your spouse and their lawyer (and possibly the family court) of this fact. Your transition should have no bearing on the distribution of shared assets and any ongoing financial obligations.

Although it might be sad that gender transition can lead to the end of your marriage, it's essential to remind yourself that your transition does not affect your rights during or after the process. Contact a law firm like Gomez May LLP to learn more.