Registering as domestic partners in Washington allows qualifying unmarried couples to hold the legal rights that married couples enjoy under state (but not federal) law. Originally created for same-sex couples, who could not legally marry in Washington before 2012, this legal status is now used exclusively by older people who wish to avoid certain legal entanglements of marriage, such as the negative effects a marriage may have upon Social Security or pension benefits.
In order to establish a state registered domestic partnership, the couple involved must:
- share a common residence
- be at least 18 years old, with one of them least 62 years old
- be capable of consenting to the domestic partnership
- not be married to or in a domestic partnership with anyone else
- not be more closely related to each other than second cousins
- not be siblings, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews of each other
The requirement that one of the partners be at least 62 years old recognizes that this is the age at which many people choose to retire, thereby triggering their Social Security and pension payments. A person who was previously married could lose entitlement to his or her ex-spouse’s benefits by getting remarried, but a state registered domestic partnership has no such effect.
A state registered domestic partnership conveys a number of benefits, such as the right to:
- accumulate assets and debts as community property
- divide community property upon dissolution of the partnership
- inherit property by intestacy if there is no will
- make health care decisions for a partner who is unable
- visit a partner in the hospital
- make funeral arrangements for a partner
- use paid sick leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner
Notably, however, domestic partners do not qualify for filing a joint federal income tax return, since they are not considered married under federal law.
Creating a state registered domestic partnership involves signing and filing a notarized declaration with the secretary of state and paying a filing fee. A domestic partnership can be dissolved by a procedure that is similar to obtaining a divorce.
If you and your significant other are eligible and interested in registering as domestic partners, the experienced family law attorneys at Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. in Tacoma can help. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call us at 253-272-5653 or contact us online today.