Do I qualify for a domestic partnership?

Couples in Washington State form domestic partnerships in order to enjoy many of the same rights and responsibilities they enjoy as married couples. It is most common in Washington State for same-sex couples to create domestic partnerships so as to have their relationships recognized legally and obtain the same rights and responsibilities as married couples.

This process is straightforward. In this article, we explain how to file for a domestic partnership in Washington State.

Who Is Eligible For A Domestic Partnership In Washington State?

According to Washington law, in order to qualify for a domestic partnership the following must be true:

  • Each partner is a member of the same sex, or one of the partners is 62 or older

  • The partners live in the same residence

  • Each partner is 18 years or older

  • Neither partner is in another marriage or domestic partnership

  • Each partner is able to consent to being in the domestic partnership

  • The partners are not related to each other any nearer than second cousins

  • View the Washington Domestic Partnership law in its entirety to determine if you and your partner are eligible for domestic partnership.

Consult with an attorney who is experienced in LGBT family law before applying for a domestic partnership. Consultation may be especially important if you you were ever previously married, have children, or have significant assets or business interests.

An experienced lawyer will be able to answer your questions, concerning how a registered domestic partnership will affect you.

How Do I Apply?

You can submit applications for a domestic partnership either by mail or in person to the Office of the Washington Secretary of State, Corporations Division.

To complete the application process, you and your partner must fill out the Washington State Domestic Partnership Declaration form, have it notarized, and submit it to the State of Washington Secretary of State office. The declaration form for a domestic partnership asks for basic information about you and your partner, such as your name, gender and address, and verifies your eligibility.

Upon approval, the state will provide you and your partner two certificates and two wallet-size cards verifying your domestic partnership.

Is Domestic Partnership Different than Marriage?

Domestic partners registered with the state of Washington have the same state rights as their opposite-sex married counterparts. There are many rights that same-sex couples do not have when they formalize their relationships with the state because of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows states to refuse to recognize SRDPs or marriages parties make in other states. For example:

Can registered domestic partners file joint federal tax returns.

Registered domestic partner and his/her children may not qualify for health care coverage under their partner's federally-funded employer-based health insurance plan, if the plan benefits are restricted only to married couples.

Domestic partnerships are not recognized under federal immigration law

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, other states need not recognize Washington State domestic partnership rights, such as the right to visit your partner in the hospital if an illness or injury occurs. Currently 40 states have constitutional amendments which ban same-sex marriages.

Are There Benefits Of Domestic Partnership?

If you are eligible, a domestic partnership can provide you and your partner with all of the benefits the state provides to opposite-sex married couples, including:

  • The right to visit your partner in the hospital and make health care decisions in the event of your partner's incapacity.

  • The right to take care of a seriously sick or injured partner under the Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA).

  • The right to inherit assets, receive workers compensation benefits, and make funeral arrangements in the event of your partner's death.

  • The right to be buried together, if desired.

  • The right to accumulate community property during the domestic partnership and to the division of that property in the event you end your partnership.

  • The right for both partners to accumulate joint debts and for those debts to be divided in the event you end your domestic partnership.

Also, all references to husband, wife, spouse, etc. in Washington's statutes (the Revised Code of Washington) are altered to refer to domestic partners. There are more than 400 rights and obligations tied to marital status and domestic partnership status in Washington law. There are a number of aspects of marital status that relate to family support obligations, including child support and maintenance obligations; community property; adoptions; child custody; creditor rights; public assistance; and property.

How Long Do We Have To Wait to Make it Official?

Your certificate and cards will be mailed out to you on the same day you submit your application to the Secretary of State's Corporations Division in Olympia. By mail, it usually takes a few days for your cards and certificate to arrive. An expedited service is also available.

How Much Does it Cost?

In Washington State, filing for a domestic partnership costs $50.00. You will have to pay an extra $100.00 if you would like your application expedited.

As always, make sure you speak with an attorney first.