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After years of marriage, coming out as gay, when you’re married and with children could have legal repercussions. We asked Stephanie Kyriacou and Matt Parr, associates at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, to outline what happens next.

Coming out as gay, what are the next steps?

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At the start of February, television personality Phillip Schofield revealed that he is gay. His announcement has been hailed as a powerful move that may have given many others in a similar position the courage to come out. However, it also works as a reminder that there are no rules when it comes to navigating the complexities that this emotional time can throw up, especially in terms of family and finances.

Coming out can bring a host of challenges, and in the midst of an already intense period of time, many people may not immediately consider the wider implications. Particularly for those who, like Phillip Schofield, choose to come out later in their lives, tricky conversations around finances and estate planning may arise sooner than expected. However, whilst this may seem a difficult topic to discuss communicating with family and friends can reduce the risk of family conflict and ensure that loved ones are safeguarded for the future.

Stephanie Kyriacou and Matt Parr, associates at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, detail the main steps to consider when coming out in later life.

Get your ducks in a row

Coming out can be daunting enough, but if you’re unsure of how your family and friends will react, the process can feel quite overwhelming. Before telling a partner or family members, it is sensible to consider your current financial and legal arrangements, including your existing will and powers of attorney. Equally, you may wish to speak to an adviser ahead of time and discuss the next steps if things were to rapidly go downhill, this would then allow changes to quickly be made to safeguard your interests.  

Don’t make any rash decisions

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Your family might be shocked or find it difficult to accept your news at first, though it is important to remember that their first reaction isn’t necessarily how they will always feel – they may just need some time to process what you’ve told them. With this in mind, it is important to not make any rash decisions. There may be discussions to be had from both a financial and a personal perspective in terms of where you go from here. Every couple is unique, some may feel that it is best to separate and file for divorce, while others may be open to the idea of staying together and living as companions.

Considering divorce

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Under UK law, adultery can only occur between members of the opposite sex. Therefore, should either partner decide that they do not wish to stay in the marriage and on the basis they had not been separated for 2 years or more, they would need to issue a divorce application on the grounds of their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour. Under these circumstances, the person making the application must show that the other party has behaved in such a way that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her, and that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

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In these situations, it is advisable to take specialist advice from an accredited family lawyer, who can promote a constructive and non-confrontational approach, often resulting in a far better outcome for all involved. Resolution is a useful starting point to find local accredited experts.

For those divorcing without children, the process can be very simple, focusing mostly on the division of assets such as money, property and investments. However, a divorce involving children can be far more complicated and often requires arrangements for maintenance payments, as well as provisions to be made to safeguard the children’s futures.

Looking to the future

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Should the point come where a new relationship is formed, it may be important to ensure that children from the first marriage are provided for.

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Financial arrangements which can protect assets owned prior to living with a new partner can be set out in a cohabitation agreement, therefore ensuring transparency around who owns what. Similarly, should you decide to remarry, a prenuptial agreement is advisable as it will allow you to outline the assets brought into the marriage as well as those that are to be kept separate.  

By securing the right expert advice, keeping lines of communication open and allowing time for your loved ones to accept your news, coming out can be the start of an exciting new chapter.

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