Legal Roadblocks Cause Divorce Hurdles for Same-Sex Couples - 8 News NOW

Legal Roadblocks Cause Divorce Hurdles for Same-Sex Couples

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Judge Jennifer Elliot Judge Jennifer Elliot
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LAS VEGAS -- Some same-sex Nevada couples are finding themselves in a legal limbo. They were able to marry in other states, but are now unable to get divorced.

Nevada doesn't recognize same-sex marriage which puts Clark County judges in tough spot. There's no existing law to fall back on. This quandary is causing both personal and financial trouble for gay couples who choose to call it quits.

Divorce is a tough topic in any situation, so tough, same-sex couples were not willing to go on camera to discuss the situation. The family court system, including two judges, also wouldn't talk.

8 News NOW was able to obtain video of one of the first same-sex divorces in Nevada. It took place in April 2012 and involved a bitter battle over what was once a family home.

"It's like any other couple your honor. It's the end of a relationship. I need to be able to have their differences adjudicated because clearly they don't think they owe any money and clearly my client says she paid for everything," attorney Louis Schneider told the court.

"I don't have jurisdiction where there are two women involved," Judge Jennifer Elliot said.

She was faced with a real legal problem. The two women married in California but lived in Nevada where the union was not recognized.

"We need to get our law straightened out and I think we need to be more friendly, but I don't get to decide that," Elliot said.

As judges try and navigate this legal quicksand, attorneys are trying to figure out how to get their same-sex clients out of marriages that are over in every way but on paper.

"Here were two women who couldn't get finality. Couldn't go about their lives," Schneider said.

He fought for one of the women who was trying to seek closure.

"It's just wrong. It's a wrong thing to have two people from California legally married, and now, they can't get divorced," he said.

Divorcing in California wasn't an option for these women. At the time, there was a six-month residency requirement to dissolve a marriage.

"So that would mean, quit your job, go live in California for six months just to get divorced. That's crazy," Schneider said.

In court, legally, none of that matters.

"I don't have jurisdiction over people who are really not family to each other," Elliot said.

Two weeks after the hearing, Judge Elliot eventually arrived at a decision. She ruled that not allowing this couple to get divorced violated their constitutional rights. This decree is one of the first known same-sex divorces in Clark County history.

Scheinder says many judges never would have granted the divorce. 8 News NOW did an exhaustive search of the divorce decrees over the last few years and turned up at least a half-dozen gay divorces that could be confirmed.

Currently, there are several couples attempting to get a divorce but continue to run into legal roadblocks.

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