Can a Civil Union Be Dissolved in Massachusetts?

If a gay or lesbian couple joins together in marriage in either Massachusetts, California or Connecticut, they can definitely get divorced in those respective states.  In states that outlaw same-sex marriage, due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), those states do not have to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state and therefore do not have to grant their request for a divorce.  That begs the question, if a gay or lesbian couple joins together in a civil union (e.g.: Vermont), can they get a “divorce” in a state that allows same-sex marriage (e.g.: Massachusetts)?

The answer to that question, at least in Massachusetts, is yes.  In 2004, Judge Cronin of the Essex Probate and Family Court ruled that a couple who has a civil union in Vermont may get “divorced” in Massachusetts.  He reasoned that a Vermont civil union confers all the rights of marriage (sans the actual title of “marriage”) and therefore, through a dissolution process similar to a divorce, Massachusetts may sever those “marriage” rights.

It is still up in the air, due to Proposition 8 that was recently voted in in California, whether same-sex marriage or divorces will stay valid in that state.  At least in Massachusetts, marriage and divorce is a right open to all couples, straight or gay.

*thanks to Amy Martel for the case-law and clarification
* NOTE: This information is only for Massachusetts residents!  If you live in other states, this will not apply.

15 Responses to Can a Civil Union Be Dissolved in Massachusetts?
    January 31, 2009 | 1:43 am


  2. Kessiah
    January 31, 2009 | 2:07 am

    I cannot get my Vermont civil union from 2001 dissolved because I live in NC where VCU’s are not recognized. Can I ever get married in Massachusetts?

  3. Kessiah
    January 31, 2009 | 2:34 am

    I cannot meet the residency requirement of one year. Do you know of any loopholes?

  4. Kessiah
    January 31, 2009 | 2:58 am

    Thanks. I appreciate your help. This situation is really unfortunate.

  5. Erin
    February 16, 2009 | 2:51 am

    Hi. I had a civil union in Vermont in 2005. I have been a resident of Indiana, but will be residing in Massachusetts. I would like for the civil union to be dissolved. Can you please tell me what steps I need to take?

  6. admin
    February 16, 2009 | 4:12 am

    Erin, in order for Massachusetts to have the power to divorce you, you will need to have lived here for at least 1 year. After that time, you can qualify for a dissolution of your Vermont civil union.

  7. Erin
    April 27, 2009 | 9:00 am

    Hello, I wrote in previously about dissolving my Vermont civil. I will have lived in Mass. for 1 year as of 8/15/09. Do I simply follow the steps for a regular uncontested divorce (i.e. filing paperwork, etc)? How long after I file the appropriate documents will the dissolution be granted? Thank you for your help! Erin

  8. Chasity
    May 10, 2009 | 1:48 pm

    I had a VT Civil Union performed many years ago and am a MA resident. What is the first step to dissolve this union? Who may I contact to learn about the process?
    Thank You!

  9. Gabriel Cheong
    May 10, 2009 | 6:09 pm

    Feel free to contact me about obtaining a dissolution of your VT civil union. 617-273-5110

  10. Trish
    September 12, 2010 | 7:26 pm

    I was in vermont when the just legalized gay marriage, was there on a vacation, got married and live in florida, still reside in florida, how can I get a dissolution? With out all the hassle?

  11. Gabriel Cheong
    September 12, 2010 | 7:56 pm

    Trish, you’re going to have to consult with a Florida attorney to see if Florida will dissolve your vermont civil union.

  12. Nicole
    January 17, 2011 | 4:53 pm

    Gabriel I currently live in NY but will be moving to California within the next few months and I had a civil union done in VT, how can I dissolve it without living in VT for a year? I have been looking for any information and all I keep finding is that I have to reside in VT for a year then it will go to court. Is there any other way I can have it disolved.

  13. NeedHelp
    June 16, 2012 | 6:44 pm

    I have a VT Civil Union and want it dissolved ASAP. I reside in GA, but am looking for the most expeditious way to get out of this Civil Union without moving to VT. With MD’s new law passed, please tell me if I can utilize MD’s laws. I’d rather move to MD than VT (no offense to VT). Also, if I must go thru some residency laws, which state has the shortest residency requirements? THANKS!

  14. NeedHelp
    June 18, 2012 | 12:26 pm

    Guess what? VT just passed a law, effective 7/1/12, that will allow non-resident VT holders of Civil Unions, to file for a divorce via the mail!?!?!? OMG!! YES!!! Wooo Hoooo!! See for yourself:

  15. Christi
    February 1, 2014 | 12:41 pm

    I live in Washington state and want to divorce my ex. we had a civil union in VT in 2001 and married in Mass. in 2004. We have been seperated since 2011. If I file my divorce for Mass. will the civil union also be dissolved? Washington recognizes civil union as marriages as well.

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