Domestic Partnership Law: Registration, Conversion to Marriage, and Dissolution
On December 6, 2012, Washington State’s domestic partnership laws changed significantly when voter-approved Referendum 74 went into effect. This referendum not only allows same-sex couples to marry in Washington, but also will limit the scope of domestic partnerships.
Until June 30, 2014, for a domestic partnership to qualify to register with Washington State, the partnership must be between two people of the same sex, or between two people where at least one person is at least 62 years old. In addition, both partners must:
- Share a common residence;
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Not be married to, or in a registered domestic partnership with, someone else;
- Have the capacity to consent to the domestic partnership;
- Not be nearer in kin than a second cousin; and,
- Not be a sibling, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew to the other partner.
Proper filing of a domestic partnership requires the partners to:
- Complete the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form;
- Sign the form with a notary public present; and,
- Submit the form along with a filing fee ($50) to the Corporations Division of the Office of the Secretary of State in Olympia, WA.
Registration of your domestic partnership with Washington State is different from registration with the City of Seattle or another local government. Local registrations typically provide some domestic partnership benefits and protections, but do not automatically register you and your partner with the State Domestic Partner Registry, which provides for more expansive benefits and protections under state law.
Beginning June 30, 2014, only couples where at least one partner is at least 62 years old will be permitted to register or remain registered as domestic partners, regardless of whether they are same-sex or different-sex. Registration requirements will stay the same.
Same-sex partners in registered domestic partnerships where at least one partner is not 62 years old by June 30, 2014 will have three options before June 30, 2014:
- Change the domestic partnership to a legal marriage;
- Legally dissolve the domestic partnership; or,
- Commence legal proceedings to dissolve the domestic partnership.
Otherwise, on June 30, 2014, the domestic partnership will automatically convert to a legal marriage without any action by either partner.
Changing a domestic partnership to a legal marriage follows the same procedures as a marriage. The process requires properly applying for a marriage license and having a valid marriage ceremony. The registered domestic partnership will automatically dissolve on the date of marriage, but the legal date of marriage will be the date of the original registered domestic partnership.
Dissolving a domestic partnership follows the same procedures as dissolving a marriage. The process requires filing and completing a dissolution action in Superior Court. As with marriages involving dependent children, if domestic partners have children together, the court may enter an order of child support and a parenting plan.
Out-of-state civil unions, domestic partnerships, and marriages may conflict with in-state marriages and domestic partnership registrations. Such conflicts may complicate how the relationship is characterized in Washington. Generally, Washington State will recognize the status, rights, and responsibilities of out-of-state civil unions, domestic partnerships, marriages, and the like to the same extent Washington State would recognize in-state equivalents.
Contact Genesis to speak with one of our lawyers about how these laws may affect your potential, existing, or ending domestic partnership.