Referendum 74 Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage in Washington State, Brings New Concerns for Same-Sex Couples

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With the recent passing of Referendum 74, Washington State residents voted to affirm legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples. Starting December 6, 2012, same-sex couples, whether registered domestic partners or not, can apply for a marriage license. Washington State family law firm McKinley Irvin covers the changes same-sex couples will see in the next few months.

With the recent passing of Referendum 74, Washington State residents voted to affirm legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples. At McKinley Irvin, we realize this leaves many questions for same-sex couples. The following is a general overview of the marriage law and the impact it has for same-sex couples and their families.

  •     Starting December 6, 2012, same-sex couples, whether registered domestic partners or not, can apply for a marriage license. Marriage licenses are obtained through the county licensing office. Visit the licensing office website for King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County or the county of your choosing.
  •     If you are already in a State Registered Domestic Partnership, that legal partnership terminates when you get married or when all State Registered Domestic Partnerships automatically convert to marriage on June 30, 2014 (unless you are in the process of dissolving your state registered domestic partnership, or if one of you is over 62). If you are unsure if you are in a State, City, or County Registered Domestic Partnership, you can search for your state registered domestic partnership here. For senior couples, domestic partnerships will continue to exist as a method of obtaining many of the rights and privileges of marriage without losing many important financial protections from Social Security or pensions.

Even though Washington same-sex marriage is now legal, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and state laws and constitutional amendments which refuse to recognize gay marriages mean that same-sex couples and families should still seek legal advice to ensure that their families are protected, especially when they travel. McKinley Irvin offers Estate Planning to help families create legal protections, including Powers of Attorney and Wills.

Another place a same-sex family must exercise greater precaution is with regard to their children. Since 2009, State Registered Domestic Partners have been presumed to be the legal parents of children born during their State Registered Domestic Partnership. This presumption continues for same-sex couples that are married. Unfortunately, because states do not recognize the marriage/state registered domestic partnership that creates the legal relationship between the child and the non-biological parent, to ensure your family is protected, you should still do a second parent adoption. McKinley Irvin attorneys can assist you in this the adoption process.

Same-sex couples who have been in State Registered Domestic Partnerships or who get married must go through the same dissolution process that is required for married couples. Same-sex couples who are separating also have special considerations due to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and taxes. McKinley Irvin family law attorneys can assist you in your dissolution process and highlight the places where you may need to seek specific tax advice.

About McKinley Irvin

With offices throughout the Pacific Northwest, McKinley Irvin is a premier Seattle family law firm and the largest Washington state divorce and family law firm. McKinley Irvin has protected the rights of families since 1991 — handling complex family law cases involving divorce, custody and international matters.

Organizations such as U.S. News & World Report, Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers, Martindale Hubbell, Best Lawyers, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) have recognized the firm and its attorneys for leadership in the practice of family law.

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Lorraine Montez
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