Since same-sex marriages are still very new in receiving legal recognition, there are unique challenges that a divorcing couple may face when utilizing the court system. The process is generally the same as it is for heterosexual couples. However, resolving disputes such as asset division, the date of the marriage, and child custody can be particularly difficult.
Asset Division for Former Domestic Partners
Same-sex marriage has only been officially recognized in Washington state since the end of 2012, and many previously registered domestic partnerships were converted to marriages in June of 2014. That means couples were potentially in long-term relationships or domestic partnerships for a great length of time prior to being married. In turn, that can create a substantial amount of issues when it comes to equitably dividing assets upon separation.
Extensive amounts of property acquired by a couple prior to the official marriage date could fall under a “gray zone,” as Washington law characterizes marital assets and debts as community property only after the date of marriage. If there was a domestic partnership before marriage, that official marriage date can be contestable.
Unfortunately, the courts have been slow to resolve this matter and often leave issues pertaining to the equitable distribution of property up to the parties to figure out. Working with lawyer who is up to date on evolving legal issues related to same-sex divorce can help you have the assets acquired during your domestic partnership included in your marital property. That would then make them subject to division.
Parental Rights & Child Custody
As with many other states, the best interests of the child standard is the guiding principle in all Washington custody and placement disputes. However, custody decisions can be more challenging in a same-sex divorce. Being considered a “legal parent” to a child can be complex for some same-sex parents, but especially for non-biological, non-carrying, or non-adoptive parents. If one parent is biologically related to the child, they may attempt to deny contact with the other parent on the basis that biological parents have the legal precedent for custody by default. Whereas, if the non-biological parent:
Adopted the child, or;
The child was born into the marriage, and the birth certificate is signed by both parents.
Then they will have more credibility when it comes to shared custody and agreements on child support. Non-biological parents with no legal ties to the child, will have little power in gaining custody. That also means they may not have a legal obligation to pay child support. Nonetheless, this can be devastating news for non-biological parents who have been involved for the majority of a child’s life and helped raise them.
Get Help from a Same-Sex Divorce Attorney
Our highly knowledgeable and compassionate legal team understands the complicated issues same-sex couples can face in divorce. We will help you understand your options and fight for the parental and property rights you deserve. Give us a call at (509) 327-0777 to schedule a free and confidential consultation, or email us today.