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Washington State converts domestic partnerships to marriages

Many members of Washington State's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have enjoyed the privilege of same-sex marriage since its legalization in 2012. Before these marriages were approved in the state, same-sex couples often entered into domestic partnerships to obtain some of the legal rights that would allow them to draft agreements on how to divide assets and other properties in the event couples separated. Now further changes in state law are retroactively recognizing same-sex domestic partnerships as marriages.

Those same-sex partners registered in domestic partnerships in Washington State are now effectively married. The automatic conversion included in the state's legalization of same-sex marriage took effect the last day of June. The only exceptions are domestic partnerships in which one person was age 62 or older. The state will not convert these partnerships to marriage because some retirement benefits would be forfeit once a couple decided to marry. For domestic partners who want to avoid marriage, they can end their legal relationship even if they stay together.

Just like heterosexual couples, same-sex partners also face family law issues involving spousal support, child custody and child support. These couples need to fully understand their rights in order to protect their best interests. Beyond the emotional turmoil, ending a domestic partnership or marriage can be complicated. How smoothly a separation or divorce goes depends on the people involved. If both parties are willing to part in a less-adversarial way, then alternative dispute resolution methods such as collaborative law or mediation may be of particular value.

In Washington, same-sex partners who are dealing with family law issues and related concerns can seek legal help to deal with their issues. For same-sex partners, it is also important to check state and federal laws to determine when legal changes might affect their own situation.

Source: Gaystarnews.com, "Washington to convert most domestic partnerships to become marriages Jun 30," June 29, 2014

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