Are you and your partner considering legally registering as domestic partners in the State of Washington? As of July 23, 2007, common residence couples in the State of Washington can legally register as domestic partners—giving them some of the rights of married couples, including hospital visitation rights; authorization of autopsies and organ donations in case of death; inheritance rights; state employee partnership health benefits and state employee partnership pension benefits.
Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about Washington domestic partnerships:
What are the requirements for domestic partnership registration?
Both you and your partner have to meet the following requirements in order to register as legal domestic partners:
- Share a common residence;
- You're both at least 18 years old;
- Neither of you are already married or in a domestic partnership;
- Both of you are capable of consenting to a partnership;
- You aren't related (nearer than a second cousin);
- You are either both of the same sex or one of you is at least 62 years old.
Washington couples looking to register as domestic partners can either visit the Office of the Secretary of State at the James M Dolliver Building (801 Capitol Way South, Olympia) Monday through Friday between the hours of 8AM and 5PM or mail in your declaration form and fee. If you visit the office in person, you can leave with domestic partnership certificates and wallet cards. Those who mail in their declarations will receive their certificates and wallet cards by mail.
What is the declaration form?
All couples looking to register as domestic partners in the State of Washington must fill out a declaration form. The form must be signed by both partners and notarized. Although the Corporations Division has notaries available, they do suggest you have the declaration notarized before you drop off your form.
What are the registration fees?
It costs $50 to register for a domestic partnership. The fee is due with the declaration form at the time of registration.
Can my domestic partnership be terminated?
Yes, you can terminate your partnership by filing a Notice of Termination of State Registered Domestic Partnerships with the Office of the Secretary of State. There is a $50 fee for filing. The termination goes into affect 90 days after the notice is filed. Use this form when you both agree to terminate or this one when only one of you wants to terminate.
A domestic partnership registration is not a substitute for a will, deed or other partnership agreements. Before filing a Notice of Termination, I'd suggest you consult an attorney as the legal termination will affect any property you both own together, benefits, inheritance rights and other properties.
Should we bother with a will now that our partnership is protected under Washington State law?
As previously stated, a domestic partnership registration is not a substitute for a will, deed, prenuptial or other partnership agreements. You may want to consult an attorney to draft further legal agreements in case of death or separation.
How private is our domestic partnership?
If privacy is an overriding concern, you may want to think carefully before registering as legal domestic partners. Washington State Registered Domestic Partnerships are public, disclosed on request and will be shared with the State Department of Health. However, I strongly suggest (despite any privacy issues) that you and your partner consider registering to take advantage of the rights and benefits of a domestic partnership.
Do we need to file the declaration form before our commitment ceremony?
There is no official ceremony needed to become legal domestic partners, only a notarized declaration and registration. You and your partner can hold a commitment ceremony before or after your registration. Here's how to plan a same-sex commitment ceremony.
What about commitment bands?
Lesbian Life Guide Kathy Belge says: "You've decided to marry the woman [or man] of your dreams. It's time to start thinking about the wedding bands that you will each wear. Buying a wedding ring for your lesbian [or gay] wedding is nothing to be taken lightly. Remember, you could be wearing these every day for the rest of your life." Here's how to buy a wedding ring or commitment band.