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Domestic Partnerships

Before same-sex marriage became legal in California, many couples there chose to recognize and solidify their relationship by registering a domestic partnership. Even with marriage as an option some couples still choose domestic partnership over marriage for various reasons.

Like marriage, a registered domestic partnership signifies a committed relationship.Certain rules and procedures apply when entering into the relationship, as well as terminating it. In either case, the Law Office of Steven L. Fritsch can help people who are considering either beginning or ending this relationship.

Qualifications of a California Domestic Partnership

Domestic partnerships are not for everyone. In California the following rules apply:

  • Each person in a same-sex partnership must be at least 18 years old
  • At least one person in an opposite-sex domestic partnership must be over 62 years old
  • The couple must share a residence
  • They must not be married to, or in a domestic partnership with someone else
  • The must not be blood related
  • Each must be mentally sound and capable of making the decisions

Different Than Marriage

Registered domestic partners share many but not all the benefits of marriage. One of the main differences is that California Registered Domestic Partnerships are not recognized on a federal level.

One of the consequences of this is that the partners must file their federal tax returns as single people, while their California State Tax return is filed under the same filing status as married persons. With the partnership, legal rights and responsibilities are gained including

  • Sharing property
  • Sharing debt
  • Sharing income that is earned during the time that the two are recognized as registered domestic partners
  • Shared rights concerning the custody and support of children the two have in common.

Provisions for a Registered Domestic Partnership fall under the California Family Code. Couples can file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership or a Confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State.

  • Confidential declarations are not part of the public record, and can be accessed only by those in the relationship, unless a court order states otherwise.

Besides tax considerations, there are other realities California Domestic Partners need to be prepared for since their union is not recognized on a federal level.

  • In order to have healthcare or financial decisions made by their partner, each person will need to make these indications in their personal wills, estate planning documents, or powers of attorney. These rights don’t default to a domestic partner.

Dissolving a California Domestic Partnership

In many instances, dissolving a California Domestic Partnership is easier than a traditional divorce. Exact proceedings differ depending on the length of the relationship, the presence of children, or the ownership of property.

The simplest option is to file a Notice of Termination with the California Secretary of State. By ending the union this way, the couple will not need to involve the court.

A couple that cannot meet those conditions will need to file a petition of dissolution with the California Superior Court, who will decide any issues of interest such as property division, support and custody concerns.

  • Each partner can request a hearing to discuss any disagreements they might have regarding how things are to be divided.
  • If the partners are in agreement on how all the issues are to be settled, they have the option of submitting a settlement agreement to the court.

Our lawyers can help you draft the agreement to assure that each person understands their rights and to assure that the agreement is properly presented. Contact our offices today for a free consultation of your legal options.