First Same-Sex Divorce Filed In Shelby Courts

(Memphis) More than 3,000 divorces are filed in Shelby County each year, but this week the courts got their first ever divorce filed by a same sex couple.

“It’s the first of its type in Tennessee, that I’m aware of and certainly the first in Shelby County,” said Linley Richter, Jr., Plaintiff’s attorney.

Richter filed a complaint on behalf of his client, Wendy Jones.

He says she knows this will be far from a quickie divorce because Tennessee doesn’t recognize her same sex marriage.

“She’s aware of the notoriety that this case is going to bring and she’s aware of the difficulty but again this is the only place she can get divorced. She either gets divorced here or she stays married,” said Richter.

According to the divorce papers, Wendy Jones married Lisa Frommel in New Hampshire, October 2011.

The Memphis couple separated three months later, and now Jones wants a divorce based on irreconcilable differences.

“Same sex marriages are prohibited in Tennessee so same sex divorces are prohibited in Tennessee but this is the first case that’s been filed in Shelby County so that’s yet to be finally determined,” said Shelby County Divorce Referee, Cary Woods.

Woods says he’s put the state’s attorney general on notice because granting a divorce will mean changing the state’s constitution that defines marriage being between a man and a woman, not two women.

“They’re kind of stuck in a Catch 22. They can’t get divorced based on the constitutional amendment in Tennessee and based on statute but this is the only state where they could be divorced,” said Richter.

Richter says you can only get a divorce in a state where you legally reside.

He believes it may take appeals to get the divorce granted and those appeals may take this landmark Shelby County case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

There is a similar case in Mississippi.

A DeSoto County judge rejected a request for another same sex female couple’s divorce there.

Since the state doesn’t allow gay marriage, they said they had no jurisdiction to grant a divorce. An appeal is in the works.

However, just last month the U.S. Supreme Court made it possible for same sex couples to divorce in Utah.

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