Same-sex marriages were legally recognized in Washington on December 6, 2012. Washington was one of the first three states along Maine and Maryland to recognize such unions by popular vote. Consequently, all judges had to grant any same-sex divorce in Washington if the spouses met residency requirements.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges allowed same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses nationwide. This crucial decision also enabled spouses to file for gay divorce in Washington and every other US state. Same-sex marriage dissolution is handled by the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), same for all state citizens without regard to their sexual orientation.
Note that only official marriages can be dissolved. Washington law does not recognize common-law marriage. The only exception can be made for such unions if they are legal in the states where they were created.
Same-sex divorce online
Same-sex couples do not necessarily need to hire an attorney to file for divorce in Washington. Many spouses decide to proceed with their case without a lawyer, thus reducing their expenses. Do-it-yourself divorces are usually quick and inexpensive if you are ready to prepare for it by yourself.
Generally, if you have an uncontested divorce, where you have reached an amicable agreement with your spouse, you can obtain a divorce over the Internet. You can find several online resources to help you same-sex divorce paperwork in Washington. Some of them were established by an experienced lawyer who decided to make documents preparation affordable and easy for society’s benefit.
If you are married to a same-sex person, you can get a divorce in Washington using a website divorcewashingtononline.com. After a short registration process and a few questions, you will receive all required printable documents alongside detailed instructions for only $139.
Same-sex divorce papers in Washington
A divorce process in Washington for same-sex couples starts after submitting certain required documents to the clerk’s office of a chosen county court. There are particular forms that a person has to fill in and sign before filing. So how to file a same-sex divorce in Washington? There is a standard procedure that includes delivering papers to the court, serving the other spouse with copies, and scheduling a final hearing.
The list of same-sex divorce papers in Washington can vary depending on each case. Typically, it includes a petition for marriage dissolution, summons, confidential information, a certificate for dissolution. You can obtain same-sex divorce forms in Washington at the clerk’s office or online from various specialized services.
Valid grounds for same-sex divorce in Washington
Any person can get a same-sex divorce in Washington if they meet specific requirements. In order to file for divorce in Washington, one of the parties must be a resident of the state or be a member of the armed forces stationed in this state (RCW 26.09.030).
A person filing for divorce, a Petitioner, can indicate the only no-fault ground provided by Washington law — irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Any fault-based grounds are unnecessary. If the other party does not deny it, a final decree can be obtained after ninety days have passed from the service of summons. Pregnancy of a spouse at the moment of filing will not affect divorce proceedings.
If the other spouse denies that the union is irretrievably broken, a judge will consider other relevant factors that were the primary reasons for the action. The couple may also be referred to the family court after they file for divorce in Washington, and before their same-sex marriage can be dissolved in a superior court.
Custody of the Child
Family law in Washington grants equal rights to both legal parents regarding the custody of children in the absence of misconduct. In a marriage dissolution proceeding, each parent must submit a parenting plan containing provisions about the physical residence of a child, allocation of decision-making authority, and resolution of future disputes.
The court gives preference to such residential provisions that ensure the frequent contact of a child with each parent to maintain a loving and stable relationship. To determine a physical residence and visitation schedule in the best interest of a child, the judge will take into account the following factors (RCW 26.09.187):
- child's relationship with each parent;
- the voluntary and knowing agreements between spouses;
- past and potential future parenting performance;
- the relationship with siblings and other adults who influence the child’s life;
- the wishes of the child and the parents;
- employment schedules of each parent;
- the child’s emotional needs and his or her level of development.
All couples with children have to attend a parenting class and submit a certificate of successful completion to the court.
The amount of child support obligation is determined with a statewide formula based on the Income Shares Model. It includes both parents’ combined income and the number and age of children. Financial obligation is divided in a particular proportion between the parents, depending on the share in combined monthly net income.
The minimal support obligation is $50 per child, and the maximum cannot exceed forty-five percent of a parent’s net income (RCW 26.19.065). Health care costs, such as medical treatment and medications, are not included in the table. They are shared between the parents in the same way as the basic support.
Child support is terminated when a child reaches 18 years or graduates from high school, whichever is later. The payments could be extended if a child has a physical or mental disability.
In a marriage dissolution, a judge may grant one of the spouses financial support from the other. To determine each party’s needs and abilities to support themselves, a court will require some financial information about both spouses’ income and expenses. The duration and type of payments are awarded according to the following factors (RCW 26.09.090):
- the financial standing of the spouse seeking maintenance and their ability to provide for their needs independently;
- the time necessary to get education or training in order to find employment;
- the standard of living during the marriage;
- the age, health, and financial liabilities of the spouses;
- the length of marriage;
- the ability of a paying spouse to meet his or her needs while providing maintenance to the other party.
The spousal support automatically ends when one of the spouses dies or the spouse who receives maintenance remarries. Each spouse can also apply for a modification of the order if they experience a significant change in financial standing or other relevant circumstances.
Since Washington is a community property state, all marital property (assets, real estate, debts, benefits, etc.) acquired after the wedding will be distributed equally between the spouses. Separate property is not subject to division. It includes everything owned before the wedding or acquired during the marriage as a gift, bequest, devise, descent, or inheritance.
How is property divided into same-sex marriage dissolution? Divorce laws in Washington are the same for same-sex unions and heterosexual marriages. If the spouses do not have a settlement or a prenuptial agreement, a judge will divide assets and debts according to the following factors (RCW 26.09.080):
- the nature and extent of a community and separate property;
- the duration of the marriage;
- the financial circumstances of each spouse after the division.
A property division order is almost impossible to modify later, so it is important to prepare for the distribution carefully with the attorney.
The judge may refer spouses to mediation before the court hearing to reach an amicable agreement concerning contested issues. This alternative type of dispute resolution is more likely to be mandatory for couples with children and counties with a dense population to reduce the caseload in local courts.
Mediation sessions are facilitated by a trained person whose services may be provided by the court. In a peaceful environment, spouses are encouraged to discuss child custody and child support, property division, and spousal support. The settlement agreement is then reported to the court, where it is reviewed by a judge who can accept or decline it.
Filing fees for same-sex divorce in Washington
Each county has its local rules on how much you must pay for filing your case. The price for submitting a petition for marriage dissolution ranges from $280 to $320. Other expenses include additional motions, copying of documents, and delivering them to the other spouse. The decision about how to serve the other party can also influence the cost. If you entrust this task to a sheriff, be ready to pay an extra $20-$40.
Any person can file for same-sex divorce in Washington without paying the fee if they cannot afford it. In order to do so, you have to submit a fee waiving form and wait until a judge grants your motion.
How long it will take
Divorce for same-sex couples can be obtained in Washington after the mandatory waiting period of 90 days has passed since filing for marriage dissolution and serving the copies to the respondent. The length of divorce process depends on whether you settled an agreement with your spouse. Uncontested cases are usually fast because they do not require a divorce trial.
On the contrary, if there are many unresolved issues, such as property and debts, child custody, spousal support, you will have to wait for a trial. It can already take a few months only to start the case hearing in court, not to mention the time needed to go through the process itself. For those who are married to same-sex partners and want to get a divorce in Washington when the spouse is out of state, the duration of marriage dissolution can be slightly extended.