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How Do LGBTQ Divorces Differ From Others?

An LGBT couple discussing about their divorce

Same-sex marriage has been recognized in Washington since December of 2012. In June of 2015, the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges brought same sex marriage to the entre country. Marriage equality has been LGBQT divorces largely similar to hetereosexual divorces—though there are still some potential differences. In this article, our Spokane family lawyers explain how LGBTQ divorces are different (and similar) in Washington State. 

Starting Point: The Divorce is Process is Largely the Same for LGBTQ Couples

First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that the legal process for LGBTQ divorce in Washington is no different than that legal process for hetereosexual divorce. Among other things, these are some of the similarities that LGBTQ couples should know: 

  • At least one party must reside in the county where the divorce is being filed; 
  • Washington is a no-fault divorce state—a couple can divorce for irreconcilable differences; 
  • Division of property and assets will be handled under the equitable distribution standard; 
  • Alimony may be awarded to the financially-disadvantaged partner; 
  • Child custody is handled under the best interests of the child standard; and
  • A non-custodial parent may be required to pay child support. 

Some Unique Issues May Arise in an LGBTQ Divorce in Washington State

Marriage equality means equalization of the laws. There are no specific statutory provisions that make an same sex divorce in Washington. Still, even though laws are facially neutral, some issues are disproportionately likely to affect same LGBTQ couples. Here are the two key reasons why an LGBTQ divorce may be different: 

  • Long-Term Premarital Cohabitation: For many years, LGBTQ couples were denied equal rights. As a consequence, many couples in Washington who would have been married before 2012 were not able to do so. In effect, these couples had an artificially short marriage due to discrimination. Long-term premarital cohabitation could have implications for a divorce. A Washington court could potentially consider that period of pre-marital cohabitation when making a property division and/or spousal support determination.  
  • Parental Rights: For LGBQT parents, there can be some complicating factors regarding child custody and child visitation—particularly if there is only one biological parent and/or the child was from before the legal marriage. In some cases, divorcing LGBTQ couples run into challenges because a non-biological parent never formally adopted a child. No matter the specific situation that you are dealing with, an experienced Spokane LGBTQ divorce  lawyer can help you protect your parental rights and find the best solution for your family. 

Get Help From an LGBTQ Divorce Attorney in Spokane

At Hodgson Law Office, our Spokane divorce lawyers have the unique professional skills and legal experience to help LGBTQ individuals navigate the legal process. If you are a member of a LGBTQ couple and you are preparing for divorce, we can help. Contact us now to set up your strictly confidential, no commitment consultation. Our family law team handles LGBTQ divorces throughout Eastern Washington, including in Spokane, Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, and Town and Country. 


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Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson and his legal team at Hodgson Law Office provide exceptional, personalized representation in family law and divorce cases. With a commitment to trust, integrity, and vigorous advocacy, Hodgson Law Office offers reliable and compassionate legal assistance for all your family law issues.

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