Can Same-Sex Couples Still File for Domestic Partnership?
Washington State first created state-registered domestic partnerships (SRDPs) in 2007. Most domestic partnerships in the state were automatically converted to marriages in 2014, about one year prior to same-sex marriages being recognized nationwide. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Washington in 2012.
According to the state registry, there were about 6,000 registered same-sex domestic partnerships in the state. The exceptions to the conversion were couples with at least one of the partners being 62 or older or with a dissolution proceeding pending as of June 30, 2014.
All same-sex couples in Washington State can choose to marry. After June 2014, a domestic partnership is an option for LGBTQ and heterosexual couples only if one of the partners is 62 years old or older. All other couples legalize their relationship through marriage.
Creating a Domestic Partnership
For couples meeting eligibility criteria, registering a domestic partnership is an easy process. They need to complete the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form, sign the document in the presence of a notary, submit the form to the Secretary of State, and pay the filing fee.
In addition to age, couples must satisfy other requirements for a domestic partnership:
- Live together
- Neither person can be married or in a domestic partnership with another person
- Be capable of consenting to SRDP
- The two parties cannot be nearer kin than second cousin
- Not a sibling, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew to the other partner
Terminating a Domestic Partnership
If the partners choose to marry or if one of the partners dies, the domestic partnership is terminated. If both partners wish to dissolve the partnership, they must file a termination in a court of law, similar to a divorce.
Dissolving a domestic partnership requires resolving issues related to the following:
Choosing SRDP Instead of Marriage
When a couple chooses an SRDP over marriage, the reasons are usually practical. For older individuals, getting remarried can impact their Social Security or pension benefits.
Domestic partnerships have similar rights as married couples:
- Can make healthcare decisions for each other
- Has access to healthcare information of a partner
- One partner can inherit some property or assets if there is no will
- Can make funeral arrangements for a partner
- Can be buried together
- Can receive workers’ compensation benefits if a partner dies in a workplace accident
- Ability to sue for a partner’s wrongful death
- Can use the state’s Paid Family Leave program to care for an ill partner
- Have the right to community property acquired during the SRDP
- Have business succession rights
Domestic partners enjoy many benefits, but they are not entitled to all the rights of marriage. For example, unmarried partners have no claim to the other’s Social Security benefits. They also cannot file a joint federal return or as married filing separately. It is not uncommon for couples to be registered as domestic partners in multiple states. Unlike a divorce recognized throughout the U.S., dissolving your SRDP in Washington will not dissolve the partnership in other states. Those actions must be taken individually.
Legal Guidance for Domestic Partnerships
If you want to dissolve a domestic partnership or better understand your rights, the attorneys at McKinley Irvin have significant experience in LGBTQ family law.
Contact McKinley Irvin to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Reach out online or call 206-397-0399.
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