Whenever a Washington couple gets divorced, there are child custody, spousal support and other issues that must be worked out. When a same-sex couple gets divorced, those issues can be even more complicated. However, there are things that same-sex couples can do to make sure that their parental rights and the rights of their children are respected before, during and after a divorce.
The state of Washington plans to automatically convert thousands of same-sex couples to married status at the end of June 2014 if their domestic partnership had not already been replaced by marriage or if their legal union had already ended. The state had 6,500 domestic partnerships listed in its registry and was expected to send out notices to those couples by mid-March to alert them to the possible change in their marital status.
In a case with implications for same-sex couples in Washington and across the nation, a federal court decided that Utah's laws that ban same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the state, those same couples can seek a divorce if their relationship doesn't work out. One woman told her story of going to Connecticut in 2010 to legally marry her wife. However, they knew within months that their marriage wouldn't work. One woman stayed in the house while the other found another place to live.
Same-sex couples in Washington may have rejoiced when the Supreme Court expanded the rights for same-sex marriage nationwide. However, 35 states still ban marriage between same-sex individuals. While couples in these states could relocate to states where same-sex marriage is legal, many have ties to their home state. In these instances, many couples, like two from Virginia, are turning to court in an effort to extend their marriage rights. The case, which involves a male couple that has been together for almost 25 years, takes on a state constitutional amendment that prevents any changes to the definition of marriage. The couple had attempted to get married just days after the decisions for Proposition 8 and DOMA were revealed but hit a roadblock when the fee for their marriage license was denied.
With legal attitudes towards same-sex couples changing rapidly, Washington couples may be surprised to learn that a judge in Mississippi refused to grant a divorce for a couple who had gotten married in California. According to reports, the divorce request was denied because Mississippi state law does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Same-sex couples in Washington may be interested to learn that four same-sex couples in Idaho have sued the state for denying them the right to marry. In addition, the lawsuit also sued for the failure of the state to recognize couples who legally marry in other states.
In 2010, a Florida woman and her same-sex partner traveled to Massachusetts in order to get married and soon thereafter returned to Florida to live. When the pair decided to get divorced in 2012 they encountered problems because of Florida not recognizing the marriage. Because same-sex marriage is legal in Washington, couples that come to the state to get married and then return to their own states to live may run afoul of the same issues.
Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in Washington, and divorce situations will inevitably arise that include child custody issues. An interesting same-sex separation drama is being played out in California and Connecticut. David Tutera, the star of WeTV's "My Fair Wedding," has separated from his partner of 10 years. Tutera and his partner celebrated a Vermont commitment ceremony in September 2003 and separated in January 2013.
On Aug. 29, the Internal Revenue Service said they would recognize all legal same-sex marriages for federal taxes. The announcement came just days after the U.S. military confirmed they would provide benefits to same-sex couples, and the State Department's provision to honor the union as they relate to immigration. Couples who live in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage might opt to wed in a state that does, such as Washington, in order to take advantage of these benefits. However, complications can arise should the couple later decide to seek a divorce.
The Social Security Administration recently announced that it had begun processing some of the first claims for retirement benefits in the United States for same-sex couples. This was likely good news for many same-sex couples here in Washington because they can now apply for government benefits as a couple rather than separately. But along with this change comes a significant problem worth noting to our readers.