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Status report on divorce for Washington's same-sex couples

As most Washingtonians know, half of all marriages in the country end in divorce. With the legalization of same-sex marriage in various states around the country over the last decade and in Washington in 2012, it is no surprise that some married same-sex couples may find themselves undergoing a divorce. For those couples who have not yet filed for divorce, they can learn from their heterosexual counterparts and take away some facts that pertain now only to same-sex divorce.

First, 13 of 50 states currently allow same-sex marriage. Second, if a same-sex couple moves to a state that does not allow same-sex marriage and then decides to divorce, one partner must return to the state where the couple married and establish residency for six months before a divorce can occur. Third, same-sex couples should learn about and understand the conflicts between state and federal laws; these differences can greatly affect custody and visitation arrangements and the parental rights of each spouse.

Knowing the basics of same-sex divorce can help lesbians, gays and others formulate the right decisions when it comes to ending a marriage. Divorce means resolving issues such as property and asset division, as well as child custody, if children are involved. When dividing assets, same-sex couples may use alternative options such as mediation or collaborative law to settle their issues in a straightforward manner. If the couple has prepared a prenuptial agreement or drafted a postnuptial agreement during the course of marriage, the judge is likely to honor that agreement, so long as it was drafted in full accordance with the law.

With respect to child custody issues, a same-sex couple can create a custody arrangement that states the role of each parent in a child's life. The custody arrangement should put the child's best interests first in order to ensure smooth transition. The couple can enlist a legal professional to ensure a fair and perhaps more amicable divorce.

Source: Huffington Post, "Marriage equality, but what about divorce?," Elizabeth Ann Thompson, July 14, 2014

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