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Slightly Older Lesbian Breakups

03 Oct Posted by in • Guest Writers | 4 comments
Slightly Older Lesbian Breakups

Gay marriage is legal now in California. That is not new news. It is old news, all of a few months old.

I am a lawyer. I am not a family law lawyer. I am a criminal defense lawyer practicing mostly state court criminal defense. What I want to address here is what we, as slightly older lesbians, have done with our finances in our relationships with our significant others.

I must digress as to the phrase “slightly older lesbian.” I was 22 in the Bachanal Cafe in Albany and saw a posting on the bulletin board for a group of lesbians 35 and older who had a support group called “Slightly Older Lesbians.” I thought that was so funny. I was so arrogant and stupid then, the way only a 22 year old could be. I am 58 now and certainly a slightly older lesbian.

But I do not want to talk about age. I want to talk a bit about money and what happens when slightly older lesbians break up / split up/ dissolve the relationship/ end the relationship- whatever the phrase, you get the concept.

The reason I bring this issue up is because in the past few months I have watched lesbian couples who have been together for more than a few years split up. In several instances one woman has walked away with everything and the other has been left virtually destitute. This has been accomplished with the help of lawyers, some gay some straight.

I frankly do not understand how any lesbian could utilize old property laws and the Government’s past failures to recognize gay relationships, to literally steal from a former partner. It is complicated, and then perhaps not. For example when one lesbian earns most of the family money and the other maintains the home and supports the earner the law did not recognize the community property interests of the homemaker. I have seen law firms,some gay and some straight, capitalize in the law’s old inequities and prejudices against gay relationships to argue that the homemaker has no community property rights and consequently has no interest in the earner’s finances. So what do you think about that?

What do you think about gay lawyers who argue, using the law to denigrate a gay relationship, to preserve one person’s property interests to the detriment of another? I think it is wrong. I think because we are lesbians we should be better. We should be more sensitive to prejudice and unfairness and that we should always act for each others greatest good, even when we are breaking up. We already have a system that wants to fuck us so why do we use laws and lawyers that have fucked us to fuck each other.

When we split up I think that we should recognize that in partnerships there are financial contributors and non financial contributors and that each make the partnership work. Since the law did not recognize lesbian relationships as partnerships lesbians and gay men have made a patch work of financial relationships. It is kind of a mess. Maybe because the law failed to recognize our relationships as partnerships some of us- usually the better off financially partner- think we are not partners. That is ridiculous. There is no excuse for gay and lesbians to use antiquated discriminatory laws to fuck a partner during and after a break up. Now that marriage is legal in California there is no excuse for any one of us to treat each other in any way than other with the utmost respect personally and financially. As for those of us that entered relationships in the decades ago before gay marriage and even domestic partnerships I believe we should all put our money where our mouth is and respect and protect our partners financially whether we stay together or split up. In no event should any one of us use antiquated discriminatory outdated property laws to hurt any one of us even when breaking up. Further gay lawyers ought to think about what they are arguing. Sometimes helping a client is giving them the guidance that using antiquated discriminatory arguments is immoral and just wrong. The same is true as friends to one another. Tell each other the truth that is it is just wrong to hurt each other financially.

Just a thought.

Paula Canny is the managing attorney in the Law Firm of the Law Offices of Paula Canny. The firm practices primarily State Court Criminal Defense.  Paula is a frequent guest on local and national television commenting and analyzing notorious criminal cases of which she sometime participates as an attorney. She is a staunch opponent of the Death penalty and an advocate for a humane criminal justice system. Paula has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, written a book chronicling her cancer experience called MY BREAST YEAR EVER, leads treks to the Khumbu Region (Everest Area) of Nepal, and was recently awarded a Star of Service by the American Himalayan Foundation for her work with the Stop Girl Trafficking Program.

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  • Thanks for writing this! You’re so right about the financial screwing-over that often happens, and then look at what happens with child custody issues…women who fought for the right to love and raise a child together and then attempt to cut off that most basic attachment, like when angry partners attempt to reverse “second parent adoptions.” There’s a huge problem here and I appreciate your lawyer’s perspective.

  • Catherine says:

    Thank you for this timely piece, which I find reifying for my own choices. I have just broken up with a partner of more than a decade where there was just such an unequal situation – I was the main bread earner and they contributed sweat equity in terms of both home building and home making, as well as doing some work for me in my business. We owned two properties together and we each took one and I took on all the debt for both properties since neither of us has the money to buy the other out. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I’m 49 and my ex is 58, and I felt I had to give my ex the best chance I could since I have an income and a built up livelihood and my ex has to restart from zero. Also I broke up the relationship. I may have to declare bankruptcy but I just felt I couldn’t do less. All my friends and family think I’m crazy. Maybe I am, but that’s the way I see it.

  • Yes, it is tragic but this is what you get with an ‘adversarial’ system. Add to that the touchy emotions during marital stress and you have a volatile mix!

  • Wow. Your integrity is remarkable!