When Jason Dottley and his husband ended their marriage last year, neither bothered to hire a lawyer because the couple agreed they had nothing to fight over.
"Lawyers are what you get when things get difficult," Dottley figured.
He had no idea just how difficult getting a same-sex divorce would be.
Dottley, an actor and singer, filed for divorce in April 2012 in California, where the court system was unfamiliar with how to handle his case. He eventually sought an attorney's advice after growing frustrated with the numerous delays.
"The lawyer I hired really couldn't offer much help," he said. "His advice was basically, you can either keep plugging away or you can pay me to plug away, but until the courts figure out what they're doing, I can't speed this along for you any more than you can."
It's a story familiar to a growing number of same-sex couples, even as the gay community continues to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. Many hope the ruling will encourage more states to legalize gay marriage, which is currently only legal in 13 states as well as the District of Columbia.
But because gay marriage is relatively new — Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it in 2004 — same-sex couples trying to get divorced have found their attempts come with high price tags and other expensive sacrifices in the few states even willing to grant them.
"Gay and lesbian couples have had to be pioneers," said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, an advocacy group devoted to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender legal issues. "Until things get familiar, even in states like New York, where same-sex couples can marry, initially there will be a sense of, 'How do we do this?'"