The Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled last month that Civil Unions should be treated like divorces in Pennsylvania. The court decided this after reviewing a Philadelphia court's decision in Neyman v. Buckley. In this case, the appellant appealed the decision of the court to dismiss her complaint for divorce seeking dissolution of her Vermont civil union. The Superior court held that "the Vermont civil union creates the functional equivalent of marriage for the purposes of dissolution and that Neyman had the right to proceed with her divorce in Pennsylvania.
The parties in this case had been separated for over a decade and had proceeded through an entire divorce proceeding only to have the case dismissed. The trial court argued that the dissolution of this marriage was outside of their authority as they only had the power to dissolve the union of couples who had been joined by "the bonds of matrimony." The lower court alleged that the parties should proceed with the dissolution of their marriage in the civil trial division.
The superior court relied on the equitable powers of the family division to hold that they had the authority to dissolve the marriage and address any and all property issues associated therewith. This case has opened up the door to all parties who were joined in civil unions prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania to the right to divorce. This is another step toward marriage equality in Pennsylvania and around the country.
If you are the party to a civil union in Western Pennsylvania who would like to discuss what rights you may have in a divorce proceeding, contact our Pittsburgh office today!