Widow Fights With Wife's Parents for Benefits

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com August 02 2011 2:25 PM ET

The parents of a deceased woman are using the Defense of Marriage Act against their daughter-in-law, claiming that she is not entitled to her late wife's profit-sharing plan.

Chicago attorney Sarah Ellyn Farley married Jennifer Tobits in Toronto in 2006. However, marriages for same-sex couples — foreign and domestic — are not recognized under the laws of Pennsylvania, where Farley's firm is headquartered.

Knowing she was teriminally ill, Farley divided her assets among her parents, Joan and David Farley, and Tobits, according to court documents. Her parents were designated as the beneficiaries of the profit-sharing plan she had through her law firm, Cozen O'Connor. She named Tobits as having the rights of survivorship for their home, and she split her monetary assets among her parents and Tobits.

Farley died of cancer September 13, 2010.

Joan and David Farley's case claims that because Tobits and Farley's marriage was not recognized in the United States or Pennsylvania, Tobits's claim is unjustified. The Farleys are asking for full rights to the profit-sharing plan and the coverage of court fees, and so is Tobits. Farley's employer, Cozen O'Connor, has asked the court to decide who should receive benefits from the plan, according to a report from the  American Bar Association Journal. While the parents say that their daughter executed all of the required paperwork to ensure that they would inherit the plan, the law firm said that at least one requisite signature is missing from the paperwork, putting the documentation in contention.

 The Thomas More Society, an antigay, anti-abortion legal organization, is representing the Farleys.