Update on Same-Sex Couples for ADPA Students & Grads
In a phone conversation, a student who had completed the ADPA course asked how he could possibly stay current on this topic in view of how rapidly everything was changing. Students enrolled in the ADPA course get the most current information available as of the print date of the their modules, and should answer test questions based upon the content contained in those modules, as stated in the September 16, 2013, memo. ADPA designees, however, need to keep current by performing periodic research and reading relevant publications in the field. I have prepared this memo to guide you in the topics you need to research and how to perform such research, and to give you some assistance by providing websites and blogs that I have found useful in the research I do to revise the ADPA course.
First, you may have some questions about how large the same-sex population is. You can find the most recent statistics on same-sex couples at http://www.marriageequality.org/divorce. Click on the Williams Institute study mentioned in this article to get more detailed information.
There are two main areas you will need to research. The first is the increasing number of states that allow same-sex marriages. Consult the sites under the heading “Same-Sex Marriage Laws” in the attachment for this information. Second are the areas of taxes and benefits and whether married same-sex couples are now considered to be legally married spouses in these areas for federal purposes. The area of benefits—at least at the federal level—depends mainly upon whether the federal department involved has adopted the state of celebration rule in determining the validity of the marriage (Treasury, Labor, and Defense), or the state of residence or domicile at the time of application or final decision for benefits (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). The attachment provides numerous sites where this information can be found. Most of the departments that use the state of residence or domicile rule are forced to do so by statutory language that can be changed only by Congressional action. These departments have expressed a desire to change to the state of celebration rule to make administration easier, and reduce costs. The site labeled “Summary of Federal Action” is a memo dated June 20, 2014, from the Attorney General of the United States to the president that sets forth all action taken by federal government departments to implement the Windsor ruling.
Obtaining information on taxes and benefits at the state level is more difficult, as each state may have variations from all others. First, determine the various departments of your state that administer taxes and each type of benefit. Next, access that particular department’s website, and search for “same-sex marriage” in the search function for that website. You may have to sort through numerous links, but you should also run across something that provides an answer to your question. This same search process can be used at the federal level. The ADP site under the attachment category “State Income tax Laws” will help you answer client questions regarding what states will recognize a same-sex marriage for income tax purposes. Surprisingly, there are some states that do not sanction same-sex marriage, but will recognize same-sex marriage for income tax purposes.
I have also included some websites that will be useful to you in answering other client questions that I think you are likely to be asked. One area where I think you can expect an increase in questions is that of divorce. As more states allow same-sex marriages, there are certain to be more same-sex divorces. If the same-sex couple resides in the state in which they were married, they can file the divorce action in that state like any other married couple. If they no longer reside in the state of celebration, they probably can file the divorce action in the state of celebration, but many states require a period of residency prior to filing. However, several states have passed laws allowing courts to grant divorces for non-resident same-sex couples who have entered into a marriage, civil union, or registered domestic partnership in that state. See www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Divorce_in_DOMA_States_Attorney_Guide.pdf . The website listed under the category “US Divorce Laws” can be consulted to determine the divorce laws in all states.
Another area in which you can expect questions may come from both same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples afraid of losing state or federal benefits if they were to remarry. There are many benefits that can be lost by remarriage, most of which are discussed in the ADPA modules. If you don’t want to search through the modules again, look for a College for Financial Planning webinar in September 2014 that you can take for continuing education credit dealing with changes occurring after the Windsor decision relating to same-sex couples.
Until next time!
As always, should you have questions regarding anything in this memo, feel free to contact me at 800-237-9990, ext. 220-4833, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
List of Helpful Websites
Same-Sex Marriage Laws
IRS Rev. Rul. 2013-17
Civil Unions and Registered Domestic Partners
State Income Tax Laws
U.S. Marriage Laws
U.S. Divorce Laws
Summary of Federal Action
State Marriage Equality Cases