‘Divorce is so different to a break up, it’s like someone dying’

Keye Tortice-Lunn thought he'd found the love of his life, but two years later they'd untied the knot

Gay divorcee, Keye Tortile-Lunn (Pic: Keye Tortile-Lunn)
Gay divorcee, Keye Tortice-Lunn (Pic: Keye Tortice-Lunn)

Getting married is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. However, not all marriages have fairy tale endings. Many end in divorce, regardless of the couple’s sexuality.

Keye Tortice-Lunn, 30, lives in Poplar and works in marketing. He separated from his husband in September 2018 a little over a year after they married, and they divorced in July 2020.

While going through his divorce, Tortice-Lunn decided to document his feelings through a blog called Tales of the unexpectedly divorced. “None of my friends had gone through a divorce and it’s so different to a break-up, It’s like someone dying and still existing it’s like grief,” Tortice-Lunn says. “I didn’t really have any friends to talk about it with; they were either heterosexual or hadn’t been married or divorced. So I started channelling my emotions into writing, hoping to help myself and potentially others. It was a very healthy way for me to deal with it,” he says.

Tortice-Lunn met his husband, who he refers to as Bear in his blog, on a dating app in 2014. This was the start of a whirlwind romance: “We moved in together after three months and got engaged after six.” 

The couple were then engaged for several years; Tortice-Lunn looks back on those times with fondness. “It was my first gay relationship. He made me feel protected and safe. He showed me aspects of the community I didn’t know or hadn’t experienced,” he says. “He gave me that protection that you look for when you’re young and naïve.”

Keye Tortice-Lunn today (Pic: Keye Tortice-Lunn)

In 2017, the pair married in Kent. Despite a “very romantic” wedding, cracks began to show even before the big day. And, just over a year after their wedding, the couple separated. “We grew into very different people,” says Tortice-Lunn, “there were many things that led to the breakdown of the marriage. That’s as much as I’m going to say.”

In legal terms, divorce proceedings between same-sex and opposite-sex couples are now almost identical. Since April 2022, anyone can ask for a “No fault divorce”, removing the need to place blame on the other party. Before 2022, however, one of the five grounds for divorce had to be met, one of which was adultery, which was defined as an act between a man and a woman, and so excluded same-sex couples. That left four possible grounds for Tortice-Lunn and his husband: unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation, or five years separation without consent.  

According to Tortice-Lunn, formally divorcing wasn’t the most important thing for the couple, however. “We were separated; we weren’t living together. If we didn’t want to communicate we didn’t have to, we didn’t have children. It was just a piece of paper,” he says.

Where same sex couples do have children, “child custody” – or child residency as it is referred to now – can be resolved through a child arrangement order application in the family court. These are separate proceedings that run alongside the divorce. In most cases, this is the same process as for heterosexual couples, but Cameron Jack, a paralegal working in the LGBTQ+ team at the law firm Giambrone & Partners LLP says that: “Lesbian couples where one partner underwent IVF or home insemination could encounter issues.” Since the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act came into force in 2009, both parents are treated as equals so long as certain requirements are met, but a child born before the Act can have complications. For example, if the non-birth parent or non-biological parent is not registered on the birth certificate of the child, says Jack. This is becoming less of a problem as those children reach adulthood.

When it comes to dividing up the assets in the event of a divorce, a prenuptial agreement can be reached between a couple before their marriage. However, the landmark Supreme Court case of Radmacher v Granatino in 2010, decided that a judge during divorce proceedings can decide if it is fair or not to hold the parties to the agreement.

Daniel Theron, a partner at Giambrone & Partners, cited some of the requirements for a prenup to be given weight by the court: “The agreement must be entered into freely, the future spouses must have a full appreciation of the implications of the agreement, it must be fair to hold the spouses to the agreement, they must have independent legal advice, it must be signed 28 days before marriage and it must be signed as a deed.”

Jack emphasises that same-sex couples might have a greater need for a prenup, considering they tend to “get married in later life and have money and even property”. He says, “In the event of a divorce, a prenup is helpful because it can help prevent excessive litigation. It’s a mature decision to enter into a prenup and it’s for their own protection.”

Divorce proceedings were straightforward for Tortice-Lunn. “It was an easy get out,” he says jokingly. A financial agreement was drawn up by solicitors in January 2019, dividing up the couple’s assets. Once they got divorced in 2020 it “was a normal standard process, we already knew the reasons we were citing, it was all done in six months.” For him, it was the emotional side of divorce that took its toll.

Tortice-Lunn’s experience of marriage has not deterred him from marrying in the future, though. “I’d definitely do it again. Maybe even a couple more times!” And looking back on his marriage and relationship with Bear, Tortice-Lunn has no regrets. “If I was to do it again I would do it exactly the same,” he says. “Obviously the marriage wasn’t right for me, but the relationship was right for a seven-year period of my life. It’s an acceptable chapter of my life,” Tortice-Lunn says. “I did spend a lot of time feeling like my marriage was a failure and I had failed a community that fought for you to have the right to get married. I made it work for as long as it was meant to work,” he says.

Tortice-Lunn and Bear still bump into each other regularly. “We go to the same gym, it’s awkward and we just politely nod across the room. We’re never going to be friends, but we can breathe the same oxygen in the same room.”

This article is part of our series, A decade since ‘I do’: celebrating same-sex marriage in London, click here to read our other stories.

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