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Texas Supreme Court makes important decision in same-sex divorce case

Late last week, the Supreme Court of Texas handed down a much-anticipated decision in State v. Naylor, a case examining whether then-Attorney General Greg Abbott had the right to intervene in a same-sex divorce case.

To recap the facts of the case, two women married in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, back in 2004. The couple eventually moved to Texas, and ended up filing for divorce in Travis County roughly five years later.

Here, the presiding district court judge ultimately granted the couple "a valid and subsisting divorce," despite the state's adoption of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in 2005.

Vowing to "to defend the constitutionality of Texas and federal laws," the Attorney General of Texas ultimately challenged this decision to grant the same-sex divorce, arguing that since the state did not recognize same-sex marriage, it could not recognize same-sex divorce.

A legal challenge arose thereafter as to whether the state had standing to challenge the divorce and the matter eventually made its way before the state's high court in 2013.

In its 5-3 decision issued last Friday, the state Supreme Court held that the same-sex divorce granted by the district court judge is to be upheld on the grounds that the Attorney General did indeed not have standing. Specifically, the court found that the state lacked standing because it had waited too long to intervene in the case and was not a party to the underlying dispute.

"The record reveals that the State, while fully aware of the public import of this private dispute, had adequate opportunity to intervene and simply failed to diligently assert its rights," reads the opinion. "This is not a case in which the State was unaware of the litigation or blindsided by the result."

It's important to understand that this decision was limited solely to this issue and means the state's ban on same-sex marriage is still in effect. This may change in a few weeks, however, as the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to rule on the constitutionality of these types of bans. 

Stay tuned for updates on this very important family law issue ...

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