The Federal Law

The Federal LawThe Federal law and same-sex couples

The United States Supreme Court, in the Windsor v. Windsor decision passed in July 2013, declared “The Defense of Marriage Act" unconstitutional pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Defense of Marriage Act”, known as “DOMA” was a 1996 federal law permitting states to disregard the marital status of same-gender couples legally married in other jurisdictions. This meant that when same-sex couples traveled to another state, their marriage rights could be reduced or eliminated completely, depending on the laws of that particular state. DOMA also prohibited the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, excluding same-sex spouses from all federal benefits and protections available to other married couples.

Since Windsor v. Windsor, the marriages of same-sex will be legal, regardless of which state in the U.S. the live in. As of June 13, 2013, same-sex marriage is recognized in thirteen States and the District of Columbia. New York is one of those states and the Supreme Court ruling reinforced the NY State Marriage Equality Act passed two years earlier granting same gender partners in the state legal rights and benefits regarding marriage, divorce, and all areas of matrimonial law which were previously enjoyed only by heterosexual couples.

Ask a knowledgeable family law attorney

If you are in a same-sex relationship in NY and are wondering about what your legal rights are in the various aspects of matrimonial law, contact Ingrid Gherman, an attorney with many years of experience representing and guiding same-sex couples in family law matters. You can set up a consultation with Ingrid by calling her law office at (212) 941-0767 or sending the on-line inquiry form.

Here is a summary of the federal benefits now accorded to married same gender based on the 2013 US Supreme Court ruling:

  • Social Security: Same-sex married couples are entitled to social security benefits including spousal benefits, survivors’ benefits, and a flat death benefit. Under the spousal benefit, a spouse can receive up to one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit, if it is higher than his/her own. A surviving spouse can also receive the deceased spouse’s benefits, if they are higher than his/her own. There is a one-time death payment of $255 that can only be received by a spouse or a child, under certain conditions.

  • Income Taxes:

    Legally Married Couples Can File Joint Federal Income Tax Returns:

    On August 29, 2013, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service issued rules specifically designed to implement the tax aspects of the Supreme Court's decision in June 2013 that invalidated a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. According to the new ruling, all legally married gay couples will be able to file joint federal income tax returns even if they reside in states that do not yet recognize same-sex marriages. Pursuant to this new ruling, same-sex couples who are legally married are assured that they can move freely throughout the U.S. without concern that their federal tax filing status will change throughout the country.

    Based upon the new Internal Revenue Rules, same-sex couples who are legally married will be treated as “married” for all federal tax purposes including income and gift and estate taxes.

    For federal income tax purposes, a same sex married couple may choose to file taxes jointly or separately (with a filing status of “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” on the tax return). On a joint return, the couple’s combined income is reported and the combined expenses deducted. On a “married filing separately” return, the couple loses some of the benefits afforded to them for a joint return, but it is still possible it could result in lower taxes.

  • Spousal IRA: All income-earning individuals in a same-sex marriage may contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); these contributions are generally tax deductible. In addition, married couples can contribute up to $5,000 annually to an IRA for a non-working spouse.

  • Estate Tax: When a person dies, the federal government imposes a tax on the transfer of his/her estate if it is valued at more than a certain amount. All property left to a spouse of a same sex marriage is exempt from this tax, as long as the spouse is a U.S. citizen—this is known as the ‘marital deduction’.

  • Immigration: the legal right to sponsor one’s spouse.

  • Divorce: the legal right for a party of a same sex divorce to obtain federal retirement funds and to receive federal tax deductions if one spouse is paying spousal support and maintenance (alimony).

If you are a New Yorker and are in a same-gender relationship and need legal help on a family law matter, matrimonial lawyer Ingrid Gherman can help. Call today to arrange a consultation with Ingrid at (212) 941-0767 or send the convenient on-line form.