Happy-Anniversary-loving-heartsLGBTQ folks have always differed on when to celebrate their anniversary. That is because our relationships have not been sanctioned. Some people date their anniversary to their first date. Others celebrate on the date they first slept together. And now with marriage equality, some people can “officially” celebrate the date of their marriage. But when should one celebrate?

Contrary to straight folks, many queer people now say they’ve been married three years, but together of 23. So, celebrating the official anniversary can be very misleading. It may not explain all the years that a couple has been together. History should be respected and is very important. So “anniversary” doesn’t exactly mean the same thing to gay people as it does to those who are straight. What’s the meaning of anniversary anyway? And why celebrate?

As anyone who is in a relationship knows, it is a wonderful thing to love and be loved. It is also hard to be in a long-term relationship. It takes commitment, understanding, patience and compromise to make a relationship work and keep it healthy. So when a relationship is working and the couple is doing well, there is cause to celebrate.  However, if things don’t turn out as planned and a couple finds themselves separating, there are numerous legal ramifications to the anniversary date.

Distribution of “marital” assets largely depends on the date the couple married. That is, anything acquired during the marriage is considered a marital asset subject to be divided. Spousal support as well is affected by the number of years of marriage – the shorter the marriage, the shorter the duration of support. So what about the couple who have been married for 3 years but together for 23 years? Strictly legally speaking, only 3 years of assets are subject to be divided and the duration of spousal support would be extremely short based on a 3 year marriage. Strict application of the law in this scenario could lead to a potentially unfair result.

That’s why using mediation or a collaborative approach to divorce allows a couple to come to their own decisions about asset distribution and support, not only looking at the law but also at their own internal sense of fairness.

So while on an emotional level, it really doesn’t matter whether a couple is legally married or not, what is important is that the relationship be celebrated, because it’s good and has some duration, regardless of the date of origin that is chosen. But on a legal level, whether a couple is married or not, and for how long, has enormous impact.

– Jessica Rothberg & Barbara Rothberg