Dissolving VT Civil Union in a NY Court

Until recently NY Courts had not determined the issue of terminating out-of-state civil unions.

Beginning in 2000, same-sex couples could go to Vermont to get civil unions without fulfilling any residency requirement, and many did so.  The problem came in terminating those civil unions.  Vermont, in common with almost every other state, has a real residency requirement for divorce cases, and when they passed the Civil Unions Act, they adopted the same requirement for dissolving civil unions.  Couples who returned to their home states were stuck if they wanted to dissolve their civil union.  Either one member of the couple had to relocate to live in Vermont for a year, or they could just try to ignore the fact that they had a civil union, or they could try to get a home state court to dissolve it.

In July of 2011, the NY Appellate Division Third Department, rendered a decision stating that the trial court had equity jurisdiction to dissolve same-sex civil union validly entered into outside of New York.

In the case, Dickerson v Thompson, the Court stated “absent Supreme Court’s invocation of its equitable power to dissolve the civil union, there would be no court competent to provide plaintiff the requested relief and she would therefore be left without a remedy. A court of equity ‘withholds its remedies if the result would be unjust, but freely grants them to prevent injustice when the other courts are helpless'”

It appears from the ruling in Dickerson v Thompson, that partners who obtained a civil union in another state can now dissolve those unions in a NY Court.  This is good news for all those couples who raced to VT and are now looking to dissolve their civil unions.