Written by attorney Paige Diana Haley

Same Sex Marriage and Divorce in Washington State

What does Washington’s Same Sex Marriage Law mean?

Same-sex marriage in Washington State became legal on December 6, 2012, making same sex couples subject to all the same State rights, rules, and regulations governing getting married, being married, and getting divorced. If you are in a state registered domestic partnership, the same rights, rules, and regulations apply as well.

You can get married now or wait until June 30, 2014 when your state registered domestic partnership will automatically convert to a marriage.

Your Washington State same-sex marriage will be recognized by other states that recognize same-sex marriages; and if you’ve entered into a same-sex marriage in another state or country, it will be recognized by Washington State. States that do not allow same-sex marriage will not recognize your Washington same-sex marriage.

Getting Married in Washington State

If you have entered into a civil union or domestic partnership in another state or country already, you can also get married in Washington State if you want to. Even if you aren’t a state resident, you can get married in Washington State because there is no residency requirement for marriages in Washington.

Marriage Unrecognized by the Federal Government

The U.S. federal government does not recognize your same-sex marriage or state registered domestic partnership at this time. You do not receive any of the federal benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples, such as more favorable tax filing statuses or immigration policies.

Since Washington State is a community property state, the federal government requires married or registered same-sex couples to split their incomes when filing federal Income Tax Returns separately. Consult a tax professional when considering whether to get married in Washington State.

A foreign national who is a same-sex spouse of a US citizen is not recognized as a spouse for purposes of obtaining an IR1 or CR1 immigrant visa.

Legal Issues Surrounding Same Sex Marriage in Washington

Adoption by Same Sex Couples

Some states and countries allow single parents to adopt children, but do not allow same-sex couples to do so. If you plan to adopt children from one of these places, it could become difficult, or impossible, if you’re in a same-sex marriage or registered domestic partnership.

In Washington State the married spouse, or registered partner, of a woman who gives birth to a child will be legally presumed to be the other child’s parent. However, if you want to ensure that status is recognized by the federal government, or in other states and countries that do not recognize same-sex marriages and partnerships, you will want to consider completing a second parent adoption. You should consult with an adoption attorney experienced in this area when considering becoming a parent.

Same Sex Divorce in Washington

In Washington and in many other states, to obtain a divorce at least one spouse must be a resident of the state. To be considered a resident of Washington State when seeking a divorce, you must actually reside in Washington State and intend to make that residence your home. If you move to another state that does not recognize same-sex marriages or partnerships and later seek a divorce, you could end up in legal limbo.

If you have a registered domestic partnership and are seeking to dissolve it, but know it won’t be finalized before June 30, 2014, the date that registered partnerships convert to marriages, don’t worry. If the dissolution is already pending, it won’t be converted to a marriage.

Keep in mind that registered domestic partners still have to dissolve their registered partnership the same way as a married heterosexual or same-sex couple, i.e. all the same statutes and laws apply to the dissolution of a registered partnership, heterosexual marriage, or same-sex marriage.

Why is My Marriage Date Different?

If registered domestic partners get married, or allow their partnership to convert to marriage on June 30, 2014, the date their partnership was registered is considered as the date they were married even if a different date is on the marriage license.

For example, even though Sue was legally married on December 20th, 2012, her partnership was registered earlier on June 15th, 2012, so the June date is technically the date of her legal marriage.

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