How does Washington address the dissolution of domestic partnerships?

Understanding the Legal Framework for Dissolution of Domestic Partnerships in Washington

Washington State recognizes domestic partnerships and provides a legal framework for their dissolution, which is akin to the dissolution of marriages. This process ensures that both parties' rights are protected and that the separation is carried out in a legally sound manner. To fully comprehend the dissolution process in Washington, it's crucial to explore the governing laws, required procedures, and potential outcomes.

Governing Laws

Since 2012, when Referendum 74 was passed, Washington has allowed same-sex marriages. Consequently, the state converted many domestic partnerships into marriages, except for those involving at least one partner aged 62 or older. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 26.60 outlines the legal provisions concerning domestic partnerships, including their dissolution.

Initiating Dissolution

The process for dissolving a domestic partnership in Washington begins with one partner filing a Petition for Dissolution with the Superior Court. As in divorce proceedings for married couples, this legal action requires citing grounds for the dissolution. However, Washington is a 'no-fault' state, meaning that the only necessary grounds is an 'irretrievable breakdown' of the partnership.

Division of Assets and Liabilities

When a domestic partnership is dissolved, assets and liabilities are divided equitably. The court considers various factors such as the length of the partnership, each partner's economic circumstances, and contributions to household maintenance or childcare. Notably, equitable division does not necessarily mean equal but rather what is fair under the circumstances.

Support and Custody Arrangements

In cases involving children or financial support necessities, the court will also make determinations regarding child custody and visitation rights, as well as child support and possible spousal maintenance (alimony).

Legal Precedents and Historical References

To illustrate how Washington handles these matters, consider Vasquez v. Hawthorne (2012). This case established that courts must treat registered domestic partners with the same regard as married couples when it comes to property division during dissolution.


The dissolution of domestic partnerships in Washington requires navigating through complex legal channels similar to those faced by divorcing spouses. It's essential for individuals going through this process to understand their rights and obligations under state law or seek legal counsel to ensure an equitable resolution.