On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the landmark decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, which determined that the Fourteenth Amendment required states to recognize same-sex marriages. This means that no state may deny a same-sex couple the right to marry. Along with same-sex marriage, however, also comes same-sex divorce. Same-sex divorces have some of the same issues as heterosexual marriages, but have some of their own unique issues as well.
The Washington Registered Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill became law in December 2009. Under this law, any same-sex couple that was in a registered domestic partnership as of June 30, 2014, had their partnership automatically converted to a civil marriage. Having a civil marriage or domestic partnership means that same-sex couples are afforded most of the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples divorcing will have the same right and responsibilities as other couples. That is, they are entitled to distribution of property, division of debts, and possibly spousal support. However, under federal law they may not necessarily be able to enjoy the same privileges as other couples. For example, spousal support payments may not be tax deductible in federal income taxes.
It is common for same-sex couples to share children. Where the non-biological parent (or parents) have adopted the child or children, then the custody case will look identical to that of other couples. The complications arise where even though the couple have been residing together and acting as parents together, one of the parents has not completed an adoption or other formal procedure to recognize that parent as a legal parent of the child. Washington recognizes “de facto parents” which means that even though one parent has not formally adopted a child, he or she may still be granted full parental rights. In order to be deemed a de facto parent, the requesting person must fulfill very specific requirements that are set out in Washington case law. These cases are highly fact specific and require an experienced attorney. Once a requesting person has been established as a de facto parent, then he or she has the same right to request custody or visitation as the other parent.
Every family is unique, and we have experience in helping all types of clients to create a future that helps fit his or her needs. If you are facing a divorce or separation, call us today at (253) 272-9459 to discuss your case and your goals.