A domestic partnership
is a union between two individuals who have chosen to share an intimate
relationship with each other. The parties should not be married to each other
or to anyone else. This process allows cohabitation couples to make the
relationship official outside the standard marriage context.
was originally introduced in the early 1980s for same-sex couples. It can also
be used to refer to opposite-sex partners’ relationship with one party being at
least 62 years of age. The union is legally recognized and the parties can
receive benefits similar to those of married couples.
In California law,
domestic partnership is considered as a civil union by federal governments with
legal rights and responsibilities common to married couples. Although, there
are states which do not recognize domestic partnership within the legal
This article will
provide you with information and all the resources you need in case you decide
to move forward with a domestic partnership union.
is eligible for a domestic partnership?
Heterosexual parties provided one party
is 62 years or older and meet the requirements of California Family code
Non-heterosexual parties (same-sex)
where both parties are of age 18 or older.
Persons under the age of 18 in a
committed relationship can obtain a court order granting the permission and
consent from the underage partner’s parent.
The partners should not be related by
None of the parties is married to
someone else or in another domestic partnership relationship.
205: How Act of 2003 is transforming California’s Domestic partnership law
On January 1, 2005, the
California state passed an Assembly Bill (AB 205) expanding the rights and
responsibilities of same-sex couples known as the Domestic partner rights and
responsibilities Act of 2003. This allows recognition of same-sex unions in
The passed AB 205 bill
provides the parties have the same rights as married couples. The couples are
financially responsible to each other during the relationship. In the event of
termination, the party has the right to spousal support.
AB 205 affects almost
every California law court with a mandate to provide rights and
responsibilities to spouses. AB 205 law allows couples to register as domestic
partners if they are also married to the same person.
Couples who registered
for domestic partnership prior to January 1, 2005, with the California state
automatically gained the new rights and responsibilities provided by AB 2005.
You don’t need to re-register again unless you had already terminated your
relationship before January 1, 2015.
of the domestic partnership relationship.
A civil union couple
has the same benefits as married couples and is most sought after by gay
couples where traditional marriage is not available. The state legislature
passed a bill authorizing the same-sex couples to seek civil unions. According
to California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act 2003, domestic
partners are entitled to the following legal benefits and protections:
1. Right to employee sick leave to take care of
your sick partner or partner’s child.
2. Right to hospital and jail visitations
3. Right to get family health insurance coverage
4. Right to receive a portion of your partner’s
property in case s/he dies without a will.
5. Right to bereavement leave
6. Right to use step-parent adoption procedures to
adopt the partner’s child.
7. Right to sue for wrongful death of a domestic
8. Right to access to survivor pension benefits.
9. Right to seek spousal support (alimony) upon
dissolution of the partnership.
Right to receive half the interest on a property the other partner purchases
while in a domestic partnership relationship.
you only qualify for legal benefits and protections if you register as a
domestic partner with the Secretary of the state. Any other registration with
the county or city council is not recognized by the state of California
domestic partnership law.
between domestic partnership and marriage
Although domestic partners
have same benefits as married couples, the federal law does not recognize
domestic partnership. This may have a significant impact on your life and that
of your partner since the following federal benefits are scraped off.
No retirement benefits from the federal
You receive few rights with regard to
health saving accounts. You do not have the right to make any medical or
emergency decisions when out of California.
You will not receive social security
benefits given to married couples under the federal law.
You don’t have the right to file federal
taxes jointly or receive tax benefits given to married couples.
In the US, states like
Washington have declared same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional (Obergefell V.
Hodges). Registered domestic partnerships automatically became marriages with
the legalization of gay marriage. This is different in California since the
parties have to agree among themselves if they want to maintain a domestic
relationship or they need to get married.
to register for domestic partnership
If you and your partner
are eligible for domestic partnership, you can register yourself with the
California Secretary of state. This is done by;
Domestic Partnership declaration form from http://www.ss.ca.gov/dpregistry/ or
pick the form up from the local county registrar’s office.
the form and sign in the presence of a notary.
a $33 processing fee and submit the form to the secretary of state.
Upon signing the
declaration form, provide your mailing address and attest that:
have met all the requirements of a domestic partner relationship.
agree to allow California court hear your case in the event of dissolution of
your partnership. This also applies if one or both of you no longer reside in
information filled in the form is correct and contain no material omission to
the best of your knowledge.
In case of any
confidentiality, both parties are required to share a common residence and sign
a non-confidential form NP/SF DP-1A.
You should also
consider the following before registering for domestic partnership.
Whether your partner or both of you are receiving
any benefits like SSI or Medicare prior to registration.
If you will consider adopting a child
from another country.
If your partner is not a United States
citizen and s/he is in the US without proper documentation or has a
Whether any of you is in the military
If the above is
applicable, it is advisable to contact your legal counsel or attorney to take
you through your rights and responsibilities before you consider registering as
to dissolve domestic partnership
Just like marriages,
the domestic partnership can be dissolved using similar court dissolution
proceedings. Prior to January 1, 2015, if you wished to terminate your
relationship, you only needed to file a notice of termination with the
secretary of state.
However, you can also
terminate your relationship without court approval if;
You and your partner have been
registered for less than 5 years,
Neither you nor your partner has
children or pregnant at the time of dissolution
None of you own a real estate property
acquired during the domestic partnership relationship.
If both parties fulfill
the termination requirements, you can fill a notice of termination with the
secretary of state. A window period of six months is taken for the domestic
partnership to be effectively dissolved. You can find more information on the
dissolution of partnership requirements from www.sos.ca.gov.
In a situation where
you’re both legally married and registered domestic partners, a lawyer is
needed to help you file a petition for ending your marriage and the domestic
partnership in a local court.
If the couple had a
child during termination of the contract, the California court will determine
the custody and visitation rights of the child. The court may rule both parents
to be held responsible for the support of the child. The court will also
separate the parties’ assets during the proceedings.
If same-sex couples end
their relationship, the couples are required by law to divide community assets
acquired during the relationship, seek alimony and secure child support if one
party depended on the other party. If the couples do not own a real estate at
the time of termination of partnership and have been together for less than
five years, they can end their partnership through filing a notice with the
secretary of state.
to terminate your domestic partnership if you no longer live in California.
During registration as
a domestic partnership in California, you must attest that the California
courts have jurisdiction over dissolution and any other proceeding of your
domestic partnership status. Therefore, in the event of dissolution, it will be
much easier to dissolve your partnership status in California even if you no
longer reside there. Consult your attorney to help you determine whether you
can terminate your status while in the current state or you need to return to
the state of California to terminate your partnership.
asked questions by clients
Do my partner and I
need to be residents of California to register for domestic partners with the
state of California?
It is not a must for your partner and you to be a resident of California in
order to register with the State of California. When you register with the
state of California, you should take measures available to protect your
relationship in a different state. There are states which do not recognize
domestic partnership within the legal context.
Can you re-register
with the state of California if you had registered as a domestic partner in
The current AB 205 has a provision that, a legal union of two persons of the
same-sex, other than a marriage and it was validly formed in another
jurisdiction according to the set California domestic partnership requirements,
it will be recognized as a valid domestic partnership. This holds true
regardless of whether it is called a civil union, domestic partnership or any
Do other federal
governments recognize domestic partnership relationship?
the federal government does not recognize domestic partnership thus providing
limited protection to your family as compared to married couples. Other state
laws may not support or respect domestic partners and may be hostile to gay and
What happens to the
property owned by registered domestic partners?
domestic partners have rights to own property which is registered as community
property under the state laws. The property has survivorship rights and in case
of death of a party the property is passed to the surviving partner. Community
property does not attract any capital gains when the survivor sells the
property due to lack of federal tax recognition benefits for domestic partners.
What happens to the
property owned separately by each partner prior to domestic partnership
205 provides that, property owned by a partner before registering as a domestic
partner remains a separate property. If
you use community funds to pay the mortgage or improve the property purchased
before domestic partnership then the property remains a community property and
can be divided among the partners during dissolution.
a Premier Domestic Partnership Attorney
Prior to registration
of a domestic partnership, you should weigh the benefits of available options
based on your current state and whether you meet the specific requirements. You
should also evaluate your rights as an employee in a domestic partnership
relationship. The California state law requires all the registered domestic
partners to keep an up-to-date address with the Secretary of the state
especially if you have moved to a different residence. The addresses should be
updated online at www.ss.ca.gov.
and related benefits apply to the specific state you live. If you are in San
Diego, and you are considering having a domestic partnership union or terminate
your union, our experienced lawyers at San Diego Divorce Attorney can help you
through the process. Feel free to call us at 888-888-8888. To learn more about
Domestic partnership and how it can apply to your case go to www.SanDiego-DivorceAttorney.com.