Although the decision in General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Resigner has couples racing to the courthouse, it also has the practical effect of allowing broken marriages to finally end in divorce.
Unlike the marriage ceremony, you or your spouse has to live in the state where you obtain your divorce. So a couple could have married in a state where same sex marriage was legal and moved to North Carolina when N.C.G.S. 51-1.2 (which limits marriage to members of opposite genders) was still in effect. Prior to General Synod, a same-sex couple couldn’t obtain a divorce in North Carolina because their marriage was void as of public policy. But now, that marriage is valid under the laws of our state. This means marriages that have broken up now must go through the divorce process.
North Carolina requires a period of one year’s separation before a divorce complaint can be filed. For some couples, their date of separation is long before their marriage was considered legal by North Carolina. This could potentially be grounds to contest the divorce if one party wanted to hold onto the marriage longer if North Carolina courts take the position that the parties’ date of marriage is the same day North Carolina recognized the marriage. The North Carolina courts could also grant divorces without considering the implications of the constitutional amendment or N.C.G.S. 51-1.2. Until same-sex couples start filing for divorces, there will not be a definitive answer.