Los Angeles LGBT Divorce Lawyer

Lost Angeles LGBT Divorce Lawyer

Top LGBT Divorce Lawyer: Stephen L. Cawelti

Because same-sex marriage has only been legal for a relatively short time, the laws regarding same-sex divorce are still evolving. 

If you are considering a same-sex divorce in California, it is important that you have a divorce attorney who is experienced in same-sex divorce and familiar with the current laws.

At the Law Offices of Stephen L. Cawelti, our attorneys have extensive experience in LGBT divorce and are prepared to help you navigate through the process. Divorce does not have to ruin your life or cost you a fortune. Schedule a consultation today to learn more.


Are divorce laws in California the same for same-sex unions as for heterosexual?

The process for divorce will be the same for same-sex spouses and heterosexual spouses, with a few important exceptions… 

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Property Division & Spousal Support

In any divorce, the duration of the marriage is extremely important. Why? It is a factor in determining the amount of spousal support an individual should receive. The date of marriage also establishes the dividing line between separate and community property. 

How does this affect same-sex divorce? 

If you cohabitated with your partner for a significant amount of time before same-sex marriage was legalized in California (June 2013) then the issues of property division and spousal support becomes much more complex.

Let’s say that you got married the year same-sex marriage was legalized, but you cohabitated for 10 years prior to that as well. Should the assets you both acquired during those ten years be considered communal property?

A divorce lawyer with LGBTQ+ divorce experience will be able to help you navigate these legal complications.

Child Custody & Child Support

Many LGBTQ+ couples decide to have children through a surrogate or adoption. Some of those couples have surrogate or biological parents involved in their child’s life.  

Recent changes in California law accommodates this new reality by now allowing children in California to legally have three (or more) parents. In the case of a divorce, this means that custody could now have to be divided out three ways, as well as child support.

“In cases where a child has more than two parents, the court shall allocate custody andvisitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child, includingaddressing the child’s need for continuity and stability by preserving established patterns of care and emotional bonds.” – Family Code section 3040 (d)

Same-Sex Divorce Options

The divorce options are the same for both same sex couples and heterosexual couples. They include the following:

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is a situation when two parties are in general agreement about most aspects of their case. One of the individuals then hires an attorney to draw up the agreement, help to work out any small disagreements, and submit the paperwork.

This type of divorce is extremely cost effective. Some divorce lawyers will push for other divorce options (as that makes them more money), but an honest and good divorce lawyer will be upfront about ALL of your options. An uncontested divorce is not the right fit for everyone, but it is a great option for some.

It is vital to make sure that the divorce lawyer you hire has experience in all of the divorce options mentioned above. They will help you to determine which type of divorce is the right fit for your case (it might even be a combination of the options).


When both parties decide to mediate, they hire a third party mediator (often a divorce lawyer) to mediate the nuances of their divorce. The third party helps the couple to reach an agreement outside of court and allows the individuals to remain in control of their divorce and the decisions surrounding it. 

For the right people, mediation is a major time saver, and also can save a significant amount of money and stress. Mediation can also be used in conjunction with other divorce options. 

Collaborative Divorce

In collaborative divorce, each individual hires a divorce lawyer who assists them in negotiating the terms of the divorce. Each individual meets and counsels separately with their own lawyer and often a team of other experts in the areas of finance, mental health and child custody. The group then comes together and meets several times to work out the terms of the agreement.

In a collaborative divorce, the parties do not need to agree on everything. They do however, need to have a commitment to cooperation and collaboration. It is important to note that if the parties are not able to reach an agreement, they will be required to start their divorce process over with different attorneys. 


Litigation (or going to court) should be the last option that your divorce lawyer initially recommends. It is expensive, your dirty laundry gets aired out in public, and you give up an element of control because the judge ultimately decides the nuances of your case.

A good divorce lawyer (if at all possible) will try to keep your case out of court. It is important however, to find a lawyer that has experience in the courtroom in the event that your case does have to go to court.

Canceling Registered Domestic Partnership

In 2005 in California, the Family Code was amended to make registered domestic partners and married couples virtually the same in the eyes of the state. This was done to allow gay and lesbian couples to reap the legal benefits of marriage before gay marriage was legalized. 

Marriage and domestic partnerships in California share many similarities, and the process to dissolve both involves the same divorce court procedures. While it really boils down to checking the right boxes, a California divorce lawyer will help to guide you through the paperwork and nuances of dissolving your domestic partnership. 

Some domestic partnerships may be dissolved by simply filing a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership form with the California Secretary of State. Couples who wish to submit this form  must meet the following requirements:

  • Both parties want to end the relationship
  • No children were born to either party and neither party is pregnant
  • Excluding cars, the couple owns less than $38,000 in assets
  • Neither party owns any land or buildings
  • Excluding auto-loans, the couple owes less than $6,000 in community debt
  • Neither party expects to receive support from the other party after the dissolution

Important Note: Many of my clients consider themselves to be “domestic partners” but never legally registered as such. No matter your own personal label, you are not in a legal domestic partnership unless you have registered as such with the state.

LGBTQ+ Domestic Violence

The majority of domestic violence awareness has centered around heterosexual couples, but research shows that LGBTQ+ couples experience domestic violence at the same rate and sometimes at an even higher rate than heterosexual couples. 

In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released a report showing that LGBTQ+ individuals were more likely to be victims of interpersonal violence.

Many individuals are hesitant to take legal action against their domestic abuser due to the stigma surrounding domestic violence victims. Domestic violence does not discriminate. No matter your sexual orientation, you are legally entitled to a relationship free of abuse. 

If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse, seek help immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24/7 and can help to connect you with appropriate resources. 

A family law attorney can help you to take the necessary legal steps to protect yourself from an abusive relationship. You deserve to be in a relationship free from all types of abuse, emotional, physical, financial, etc.

Stephen L. Cawelti

Stephen is a board certified divorce attorney who has specialized in complex family law matters since 2006 in California. He has acted as the lead attorney on hundreds of divorce cases and argued before the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura County Superior Courts. He was voted by Pasadena Magazine as one of the “Top Family Law Attorneys” in the area for 7 years in a row and named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.

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