Under the current Washington law, following groups of people can be registered domestic partners:
- same sex couples
- different sex couples in which either or both of the partners is at least sixty-two years of age.*
* ”While these couples are entitled to marry under the state's marriage statutes, some social security and pension laws nevertheless make it impractical for these couples to marry. For this reason, chapter 156, Laws of 2007 specifically allows couples to enter into a state registered domestic partnership if one of the persons is at least sixty-two years of age, the age at which many people choose to retire and are eligible to begin collecting social security and pension benefits.”
Chapter 26.60.015 RCW provides "It is the intent of the legislature that for all purposes under state law, state registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses.” In other words, during dissolution procedure, the registered domestic partners have same rights and liabilities as married couples, go through the same procedure and are treated in all respects alike.
Same sex couples
In addition to the domestic partnership laws, Washington Legislature recently admitted that same sex couple should have a right to marry. A new law [Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239] on same sex marriage was signed by the Senate in Washington State on February 1, 2012 signed by the House on February 8, 2012, and approved by the Governor on February 13, 2012. It defines marriage as “Marriage is a civil contract between two persons who have each attained the age of eighteen years, and who are otherwise capable,” thus recognizing same sex marriage.
Same sex couples could either convert their domestic partnership into a marriage by June 30, 2014, or do nothing and their partnership will be automatically merged into a marriage and be deemed a marriage as of June 30, 2014. In order to avoid conversion, the parties shall file for dissolution of domestic partnership.
For the purposes of dissolution proceedings though, both registered domestic partnerships and same sex marriages are treated as traditional marriages. It means that in order to get them dissolved, family court will have to resolve same issues as in dissolutions of different sex marriages:
- division of assets and liabilities
- parenting plan and child support
- spousal maintenance and attorney’s fees
Procedurally domestic partnership cases are treated as traditional marriages as well. In other words, unless you have been with your partner for an extremely short period of time (under one year), have no children together, and did not acquire assets and liabilities during your marriage, you should probably consider retaining an attorney to represent you. Your case is not going to be easier than any other divorce.