Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Divorce in Norwegian Same-Sex Marriages and Registered Partnerships: The Role of Children

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Divorce in Norwegian Same-Sex Marriages and Registered Partnerships: The Role of Children

Article excerpt

Although there has been an increase in research on same-sex unions in recent years, there are still few studies on union dissolution among couples consisting of two partners of the same sex (Moore & Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, 2013; Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007). The studies that do exist have consistently shown that the dissolu- tion rates for same-sex couples are higher than those of opposite-sex couples (e.g., Anders- son, Noack, Seierstad, & Weedon-Fekjær, 2006; Kalmijn, Loeve, & Manting, 2007; Lau, 2012). There generally are fewer barriers to union dissolution among same-sex couples than opposite-sex couples, like common children and legal institutions (Kurdek, 2004), so same-sex couples may be more exposed to risk factors associated with union instability.

Few studies have focused on the association between having common children and relation- ship stability among same-sex couples (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007). One reason for this lack of research is the biological and social as well as legal obstacles faced by same-sex couples who want to become parents. In many countries, the legal and social acceptance of same-sex rela- tionships has increased in recent decades, mak- ing it possible to form families through donor insemination, surrogacy, or adoption (Moore & Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, 2013). In this article we extend the literature by examining the role that having common children plays in union stability. We used register data on all Norwegian same-sex couples who formalized their unions from 1993 through 2010 (N = 3,422).

Background

The Scandinavian countries were among the first to legally recognize unions between partners of the same sex when so-called "registered part- nerships," which were different in name but otherwise quite similar to heterosexual mar- riages, were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Chamie & Mirkin, 2011). Unlike in some other countries, such as the Netherlands and France, registered partnerships in Scan- dinavia were not open to opposite-sex cou- ples. In 2009, Norway and Sweden adopted fully gender-neutral marriage legislation and gave couples already living in registered partner- ships the opportunity to convert their civil sta- tus to marriage. Analyses covering the period 1993 to 2002 showed that divorce risks were higher in same-sex registered partnerships than in opposite-sex marriages. In both Norway and Sweden, the divorce risk for female partnerships was twice that for male partnerships (Andersson et al., 2006). Same-sex couples who formalized their union in this pioneering period of registered partnerships in Scandinavia could, however, dif- fer in their behavior from those who registered or married in subsequent years. Most important, in these first years the majority of couples were male, and same-sex parenting was uncommon (Andersson & Noack, 2010).

In Norway, same-sex registered partners have mostly the same legal rights and duties as married couples, and the procedures for entering and dissolving registered partner- ships and marriages are identical. In the first years of registered partnerships, exceptions applied to solemnization of the union and to the rights to joint adoption and to have medically assisted insemination ( Anders- son et al., 2006). These exceptions were mod- erated during subsequent years, and from 2002 on stepchild adoptions were allowed. With the introduction of the gender-neutral marriage law in January 2009 it was no longer possible to enter registered partnerships, and existing registered partners received the same legal rights and duties as married couples. In partic- ular, registered partners and same-sex married couples were given the opportunity to adopt children jointly, and artificial insemination with sperm from a known donor became available to women who are married, registered partners, or living in a stable cohabiting union. Surrogacy is prohibited in Norway, regardless of sexual orientation and marital status (Norwegian Direc- torate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, 2014). …

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