LGBT Family Law
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, making it a great opportunity to highlight issues surrounding LGBT Family Law.
Dellino Law Group fervently supports marriage and relationship equality. Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we believe in each family’s right to exceptional legal representation. LGBT family law continues to change rapidly, both federally and in Washington State. We are dedicated to remaining up-to-date and knowledgeable with the evolving nature of the law, and we are proud to serve the LGBT community throughout Seattle and Washington State. The following are just a few of our specialty areas:
Child Custody for Same-Sex Parents:
Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012 and there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. Along the same vein, child custody considerations should be subject to the same laws for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples.
However, many same-sex couples with children have been together for many years prior to December 2012 and/or may not yet have chosen to legally marry. In cases where one partner is the legal parent of the child, custody issues may become challenging if a separation should arise. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the existing laws to potentially establish parental rights based on demonstrating the parent-child relationship and bond, despite legal or biological ties.
There are other child custody issues or disputes that may arise for same-sex parents as well. The family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group understand the unique considerations involved when creating parenting plans for same-sex parents and are skilled and experienced in advocating for the rights of parents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Divorce for Same-Sex Couples:
Once again, since same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. This includes marriages entered into in Washington State as well as in any other state. The only way to dissolve a same-sex marriage in Washington State is through divorce proceedings, just the same as an opposite-sex marriage.
It is advised that you contact an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage. At Dellino Law Group, we have worked with many same-sex couples in dissolving their marriages. We understand that even though the law and procedure may be the same as it is for opposite-sex couples, there could arise complex, unique issues, given that this is still fairly new territory in terms of case law. We are dedicated to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your individual case.
In 2007, Washington State began allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partners. Unless dissolved, all of the Washington State domestic partnerships were converted to marriages on June 30, 2014.
For questions or consult about dissolutions of domestic partnerships, conversion to marriage, or registration for domestic partnerships, please contact us for a consultation.
Committed Intimate Relationships:
In Washington State, “common law marriage” does not exist. However, Washington courts do recognize “committed intimate relationships.” These relationships were formerly known as “meretricious relationships” and exist when an unmarried couple lives together for a significant period of time. In Washington State, these relationships have property rights similar to those had by married couples. It is critical that you know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in Washington so you can plan accordingly. Cohabitation laws apply to all couples meeting legal requirements for committed intimate relationships, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
Please see our prior blog post for detailed information about committed intimate relationships, your rights, and important factors to consider.
Many gay and lesbian couples are uneasy about potentially facing discrimination when looking to adopt. Some states do have laws that are less welcoming and even outright discriminating, but Washington is not one of those states. In Washington, same-sex couples have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Any person who is legally competent and who is at least 18 years old may become an adoptive parent (RCW 26.33.140). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are qualified to adopt, regardless of whether they are single or married. Same-sex couples can adopt jointly and can arrange second-parent adoptions as well. The NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights) defines second-parent adoption as a legal procedure that allows same-sex parents to adopt his or her partner’s biological or adoptive child without terminating the first parent’s legal status as a parent, regardless of whether they have a legally recognized relationship to the other parent. This is also known as a co-parent adoption.
Unfortunately, there is not yet an anti-discrimination law in place preventing birth parents from deciding against individuals or couples based on sexual or gender orientation. If you are a LGBT-identified individual or couple, finding the right adoption match may be challenging. It is especially advised that you work with an experienced attorney through this process. Our family law attorneys are very knowledgeable and experienced in the unique challenges LGBT individuals and couples face when seeking adoption. We are eager to work with you to achieve your goal of welcoming an adopted child into your family.
In addition to adoption, custody, and divorce expertise, we are equipped to manage the unique considerations for LGBT-identified individuals or couples who may be seeking:
- Estate Planning
- Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
- Premarital Agreements
- Property Division
Please contact us for a Free Consultation to discuss any and all LGBT Family Law issues.