Judge Questions Courts Jurisdiction on Transgender Divorce Case

A divorce case currently in the Phoenix family courts could end up having far-reaching effects throughout the country. The case involves an Arizona man, born a woman, who had a sex change operation but retained his female reproductive organs after he had the operation. The family court judge who is hearing the divorce is questioning whether or not Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban bars him from even recognizing the validity of the marriage, never mind ending it.

Thomas Beatie, born Tracy, began testosterone treatments in 1997 and underwent double mastectomy and chest reconstruction surgery in 2002. His name was legally changed to Thomas by a Hawaiian court, where he resided at the time. He married his wife in 2003, and since she was unable to conceive, he conceived with donated sperm. The couple has three children, ages 4, 3 and 2 years old.

In a Marin Independent Journal report, the presiding judge on the case points out that Arizona has banned same-sex marriages and refuses to accept those performed in other states. The judge added no court there is allowed to declare same-sex unions valid. The question posed in this case is whether a judge has jurisdiction to grant a divorce in a marriage involving a transgender person.

Thomas Beatie’s lawyer pointed out that although it would be financially beneficial for Beatie if the judge ruled the marriage did not exist since he would not be required to pay alimony, he wants the divorce as an official recognition that their union was legitimate. "He loses money, but he wants to be told it's valid," the attorney said.

A trial for this case is set for Jan. 31 and the judge is expected to rule sometime in February. The circumstances of every divorce case are different, and although the details of this case may be somewhat unique, anyone who is considering a divorce should consult with a qualified Illinois attorney.

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