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.
Domestic partnership 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 context.
Our website www.SanDiego-DivorceAttorney.com will provide you with information and all the resources you need in case you decide to move forward with a domestic partnership union.
Who is eligible for a domestic partnership?
1. Heterosexual parties provided one party is 62 years or older and meet the requirements of California Family code section 297.
2. Non-heterosexual parties (same-sex) where both parties are of age 18 or older.
3. 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.
4. The partners should not be related by blood.
5. None of the parties is married to someone else or in another domestic partnership relationship.
AB 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 other jurisdictions.
AB 205 bill provides domestic parties to have the same rights as married couples. The couples are financially responsible to each other during the relationship.
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 stated by AB 2005 bill. You don’t need to re-register again unless you had already terminated your relationship before January 1, 2015.
Benefits 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 partner.
8. Right to access to survivor pension benefits.
9. Right to seek spousal support (alimony) upon dissolution of the partnership.
10. Right to receive half the interest on a property the other partner purchases while in a domestic partnership relationship.
Note, 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.
Difference 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.
1. No retirement benefits from the federal government.
2. 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.
3. You will not receive social security benefits given to married couples under the federal law.
4. You don’t have the right to file federal taxes jointly or receive tax benefits given to married couples.
In the US, same-sex marriage bans have declared unconstitutional (Obergefell V. Hodges) e.g. in states like Washington. 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.
How 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;
1. Download Domestic Partnership declaration form from http://www.ss.ca.gov/dpregistry/ or pick the form up from the local county registrar’s office.
2. Complete the form and sign in the presence of a notary.
3. Pay 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:
1. You have met all the requirements of a domestic partner relationship.
2. You 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 California.
3. The 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.
1. Whether your partner or both of you are receiving any benefits like SSI or Medicare prior to registration.
2. If you will consider adopting a child from another country.
3. If your partner is not a United States citizen and s/he is in the US without proper documentation or has a non-immigrant visa.
4. Whether any of you is in the military department.
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 domestic partners.
How 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.
How 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.
Frequently 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?
No. 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 another state?
No. 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 other name.
Do other federal governments recognize domestic partnership relationship?
Currently, 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 lesbian relationships.
What happens to the property owned by registered domestic partners?
Registered domestic partners have rights to own property which is registered as community property under the state laws. The property has survivorship right 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 registration?
AB 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.
Contact 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.
Domestic partnership 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 via 888-888-8888. To learn more about Domestic partnership and how it can apply to your case go to www.SanDiego-DivorceAttorney.com.