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Issues in Same-Sex Divorces 

William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law July 26, 2023

Angry Gay CoupleConsidering divorce can be daunting, especially if you are ending a same-sex marriage. While a non-heterosexual divorce is largely similar to a heterosexual divorce, a gay or lesbian couple may come across some unique issues when they decide to end their marriage.

If you are part of a same-sex couple and are considering a divorce in Washington, call family law attorney William E. Morgan in Montesano. William has practiced law since the 1970s and brings his mastery over the intricacies of family law to every divorce case. 

In Washington, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2012, and same-sex married couples have the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples. However, some aspects of the same-sex divorce process may deserve extra consideration.  

Common Issues in Same-Sex Divorces

Length of Relationship When Considering Property Division and Alimony 

Since same-sex marriage was only recognized in Washington in 2012 and federally with the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case in 2015, many same-sex couples have been married legally for far less time than they have been together. For this reason, calculating the time of the actual relationship for the purpose of determining alimony and division of assets can be complicated. 

Washington is a community property state, meaning that all assets not accrued during the marriage are usually divided 50/50 in a divorce. If a couple who has been together for twenty years is now divorcing after being legally married for only five years, courts may differ in how they determine when assets that should be considered marital property began to accrue. An expert divorce attorney will be able to emphasize your unique situation to the court. For example, your attorney may make the argument to the court that the length of the actual relationship should be considered when distributing marital property and determining spousal support.  

Tax Issues

Following the above, tax issues may arise for a divorcing same-sex couple. For example, property transfers between married couples are not subject to taxes, but many couples transferred property to each other before they were legally married. An attorney will be able to help you determine your options in this case.  

Child Custody and Child Support

Child custody and child support can be fraught in some gay and lesbian divorces. For example, if one parent in a lesbian couple has given birth to a child during the relationship but the other parent has not legally adopted the child, courts in some states may not recognize the non-birthing parent as the child’s legal parent.  

In Washington, “legal presumption of parentage” has existed since 2009; this means that both same-sex parents are seen as legal parents of any children that arrived during that relationship. If you are in a same-sex couple and had children before 2009, you may be able to become a de facto parent of your non-biological child, or become a de facto parent of any of your ex-partner’s children from a previous relationship. Establishing de facto parentage can be a complicated process, however; it is best to enlist the assistance of a family law attorney.  

Dissolving All Legal Relationships 

It can be time-consuming for some same-sex couples to end all legal relationships if they have obtained civil unions or domestic partnerships in states other than the state in which they were married or in which they live. If you and your spouse are divorcing in Washington and obtained a civil union or formed a domestic partnership in another state prior to your marriage, it is important to bring any documentation to the attention of your attorney, as Washington will dissolve any domestic partnerships or civil unions created in other states. An attorney will be able to help you make sure that your legal ties are officially severed.  

Protect What You Have Fought For and Built  

When going through a same-sex divorce, it’s important to have a supportive family law attorney on your side to make sure that you and your family receive the care and attention that you need. For help with a same-sex divorce in Washington, contact William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, located in Montesano, Washington, and serving Grays Harbor County (including Montesano, Aberdeen, and Hoquiam) as well as Pacific County (including South Bend and Raymond). Every family is unique, and William will work closely with yours to meet your goals. Call William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law today for a consultation.