If you are experiencing the end of a same sex marriage, along with the emotional toll, you may face some unexpected and complex legal issues. The laws governing same sex marriage and same sex marriage dissolution are new and developing. Our attorneys are in the forefront in this changing area of law. We are prepared to take on the unique challenges faced by same sex couples in divorce. Marriage equality means divorce equality.
Same Sex Marriage Laws in Washington
The battle for legal recognition of same sex marriage in the state of Washington has a long history and includes many steps. One of the earliest legal cases about same sex marriage in the United States, Singer v. Hara, was filed in Seattle in 1971.
As a result of this long history, multiple laws and regulations within Washington, and sometimes from other states, can apply in a divorce. It is important to have an attorney who understands and has experience dealing with potential issues involving child custody, spousal support, and benefit programs during divorce.
Is Same Sex Marriage Legal in Washington?
Yes. Same Sex Marriage became legal in the state of Washington on December 6, 2012. This occurred after voters approved state Referendum R-74 confirming Senate Bill SB 6239. With the enactment of this law, same sex couples gained the right to marry but, at the same time, took on the burden of legal divorce.
The right to divorce is almost as important as the right to marry. Before the recent laws allowed civil contracts and now same sex divorce, couples were not able to legally establish child custody and visitation, divide property, or seek child and spousal support from a same sex partner. Same sex marriage partners seeking divorce now have equal protection under the Washington State laws.
Domestic Partnership in Washington
Converting Same Sex Domestic Partnerships to Marriage
One of the steps on the road to same sex marriage in Washington was the establishment of Domestic Partnerships to provide legal rights to same sex couples. With the recognition of same sex marriage in Washington, same sex domestic partnerships will convert into marriages.
The law states, “any state registered domestic partnership in which the parties are the same sex, and neither party is sixty-two years of age or older, that has not been dissolved or converted into a marriage by the parties by June 30, 2014, is automatically merged into a marriage and is deemed a marriage as of June 30, 2014.”
Additionally, couples currently living in the state of Washington who entered into a domestic partnership, civil union, or legal union other than marriage in another state may obtain a marriage license in Washington. Equally, couples in such legal unions may also seek divorce, legally called dissolution, in these cases through Washington courts.
If you are a Washington resident in a domestic partnership or civil union from another state, you can file for a dissolution of that partnership in Washington State courts. This allows for the establishment of child custody and support, and an equitable distribution of assets. Our family law attorneys can explain to you the process to dissolve a domestic partnership and how to preserve your rights and assets.
Challenges in Same Sex Divorce
While the law in Washington now provides equal protection for all married couples, there are still some unique challenges same sex couples face in divorce. These challenges result from the newness of same sex marriage laws and the differences in marriage laws from state to state. It is important to know how these issues can affect custody of children, support, and the division of property.
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