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Legally Speaking: Brittney Griner divorce case could set same-sex precedent

When Glory Johnson posted a picture on Instagram in early June exclaiming, “This is about to be one CRAZY SUMMER!!!”, I doubt she was referring to the next chapter in the tumultuous relationship between her and Brittney Griner.

The family court proceedings between these athletes are not typical, and truth be told, are a bit confusing. They involve a 28-day same-sex marriage, preceded by domestic violence charges and conviction, in-vitro fertilization, and allegations of duress and fraud.

No, this isn’t a movie or a book; this is the situation that two successful, gifted and popular women have found themselves in.

In the end, their case could set precedent for other same-sex marriages involving a lot of issues.

Recent court filings lay out the positions of each of the WNBA players in their divorce/annulment proceedings. Griner filed a petition on June 5 seeking an annulment of the marriage or, in the alternative, a dissolution.

What exactly is the status of this relationship and the proceedings and what do each of these women want?

Here is a breakdown:

Griner filed a petition for an annulment or, in the alternative, a divorce.

Bottom line, she wants to end the relationship between her and Johnson. She wants an annulment first and alleges there was fraud and duress in the relationship. (Basically, in order to qualify for an annulment there has to be some type of fraud or duress in the relationship.)

Griner claims Johnson put immense pressure on her to get married, which caused her to be under duress at the time of the wedding.

Additionally, Johnson claimed she was the “victim” of the domestic violence incident, which means Griner was the abuser. Had Griner knew her wife would take this position, she stated she would not have married her.

Griner believes Johnson was not faithful during the courtship and had “continued admiration” for a former beau. Griner claims this amounted to fraud and duress, thus paving the way for an annulment.

Griner does not want, nor does she want to pay, any alimony/spousal maintenance. In fact, spousal maintenance is not available when there is an annulment.

Griner also does not want to share her house here in Arizona, especially during the time she is overseas playing ball.

Lastly, she doesn’t want to pay for her wife’s attorneys fees.

Johnson wants a divorce and it is her position they do not qualify for an annulment because there was no fraud or duress.

Johnson wants to be able to use the “marital residence” in Arizona, although she is currently living outside the state. This request is due to the fact she is pregnant with twins (her IVF pregnancy is considered high-risk) and with all of her doctors and medical providers in Arizona, it would save time and money to allow her to use the couple’s Valley home, particularly when Griner is overseas.

Johnson wants Griner to pay her spousal maintenance in the amount of $20,000 per month and continue to make the payments on her Mercedes for the duration of the litigation. This is based on their standard of living during the marriage.

Lastly, Johnson is asking for $10,000 towards her attorney fees. These requests are due to the fact she is on medical leave and making only a portion of her WNBA salary (about $1,875 per month), she has furniture and personal property in the home and Griner makes substantially more than Johnson — somewhere in the region of $1.2 million per year (including income from the WNBA, endorsements and playing overseas).

It should be noted that each side alleges there is legal precedent and statutory authority for their respective positions.

With such complex issues and lack of a clear-cut legal precedent, it is unlikely these proceedings will end before the twins are born. We’ll know more after an evidentiary hearing on Aug. 17.

These two women only wanted to see their names in the headlines for their ability on the basketball court. Unfortunately, they will also see their names in headlines because of what is happening in a different kind of court.