Domestic Partnerships in Washington

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 What Does A Domestic Partnership Do In Washington?

According to the state of Washington government research, in 2007, SB 5336 was passed by the legislature, which allowed domestic partnerships in Washington for the first time. This new regulation established that same-sex couples over the age of 18 can enter into a domestic partnership.

Although the state authorized this type of partnership, it banned it for these types of situations:

  • If the person is already married;
  • If the person is a relative of that individual and;
  • If they are already in a domestic partnership with another person.

Furthermore, couples in a domestic partnership have numerous protections and benefits. You can research the local Washington code for more details regarding these protections. The following are some of the benefits provided to same-sex couples ordained together in a domestic partnership:

  • Have the right to inherit property from partner and administer their will;
  • Visit your partner in the hospital and be able to make medical care decisions;
  • Have the right to access health care information;
  • The ability to sue for the wrongful death of a partner;
  • Manage and oversee the funeral arrangements for your partner;
  • To approve organ donation;
  • To have the right to view the autopsy report;
  • Have the right to be buried together in a cemetery plot;
  • Any worker’s compensation, if available, for the partner;
  • Adhering to the property division and being able to attain any property from your partner;
  • Be named on your partner’s death certificate;
  • Being financially responsible for any debts incurred during the partnership;
  • Seek alimony if the domestic partnership comes to an end; and
  • Any paid sick leave permitted to care for the sick partner.

As mentioned earlier, the new law permits a domestic partnership in Washington, allowing same-sex couples the benefits and permitting them to have a relationship.

Who Can Register a Domestic Partnership with the City of Seattle?

There are some general requirements ordained in the City of Seattle Code. The domestic partners can be anyone that meets the criteria below:

  • They are both 18 years of age or older;
  • They are not related by blood;
  • Have a mutually caring relationship; commitment;
  • Do not have any other domestic partner; and
  • Are not currently married.

Will Other States Recognize our Domestic Partnership?

Federal laws are changing around same-sex couples’ relationships. There is a federal law now that recognizes all same-sex marriages. However, some states are still hesitant to implement these regulations fully. Therefore, if you are having an issue with a particular state recognizing your domestic partnership, you can contact a local attorney to handle your case.

If We Have a Child, Will Domestic Partnerships Affect Our Rights as Parents?

Each situation is different; you can consult an attorney for specific questions. In general, if you and your partner have a child while you are registered as a domestic partner, you will be presumed as the legal parents by the Washington law.

However, becoming an adoptive parent as a domestic partnership couple may attract some challenges. For instance, some adoption agencies nationally and internationally do not permit same-sex couples to seek adoption in their state or country. Therefore, seeking to adopt a child in a domestic partnership can be more difficult. But it is not impossible; if you are in this situation and need assistance, consult a legal professional. Many adoption agencies are willing to work with same-sex couples and allow them to grow their families.

Furthermore, there are other processes to protect your rights as an adoptive parent, such as second-parent adoption. A second-parent adoption ensures that both parents’ rights are protected if you move or travel to another state that may not recognize your parental rights. If you and your registered domestic partner or spouse adopt a child who is not biologically related to either of you, both of you must agree to the adoption.

This will protect the legal rights of you and your child in case of any issues with domestic partnership. Moreover, recently there has been more awareness of same-sex couples adopting and co-parenting. More legal options are available for same-sex couples trying to create a family of their own. Legal experts are available to deal with and tackle this issue more because a wide range of protections is now provided for same-sex couples.

Does My Employer have to Offer Health Insurance to my Domestic Partner?

Each case is unique, and it varies based on the situation. You may need to conduct more research into your company policies regarding offering health insurance to your partner. For instance, if your basic healthcare plan provided by your employer does not cover spouses, then it will most likely not cover domestic partners.

But, if your employer’s health plan does include spouses, in most situations, the health plan must offer equal coverage to registered domestic partners if the health plan is issued in Washington. However, there are other ways to obtain health insurance. For example, you can opt to have your private health care plan and choose to keep it separate from your employer.

Keep in mind that if you are employed by a state or local government in Washington State, your employer must offer the same coverage to your domestic partner that it offers to married couples. These rules may vary for another type of employee, and it is recommended to have these conversations before signing a contract to avoid future conflicts. Healthcare insurance is a priority, and if you believe your employer needs to be the source of coverage, you must research this beforehand.

How Do We Register as Domestic Partners With the State?

All states have a different process for registering as a domestic partner. You must register with the Secretary of State’s office for the state of Washington. Both of you need to sign a “Declaration of State Registered Domestic Partnership” form in the presence of a public notary and pay the required filing fees.

You have several options on how it can be sent to the state. You can mail the signed, and notarized form with the filing fee or hand deliver your forms to the Secretary of State’s Office in Washington. You can obtain the forms from the Secretary of State’s website, the local government’s office, and county court clerks’ offices.

How Do we Terminate our Domestic Partnership?

To end a domestic partnership, you must adhere to similar rules and procedures as ending a marriage. This means filing a dissolution action in the state Superior Court and obtaining a court order to dissolve your domestic partnership. Similarly to divorce, there are other issues attached to it—for instance, child support and child custody. Therefore, if you both have children together, other procedures are in place to protect these relationships.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you reside in Washington state, are currently in a domestic partnership, or want to be, contact a local Washington family law attorney to assist you.

Some steps involve obtaining a domestic partnership and what benefits are offered to a same-sex couple. If you encounter any issues, do not hesitate to talk to a legal professional. An attorney can research the laws to inform you of your legal rights and options moving forward.

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