Domestic Partnership in California has its roots in 1999 when it was established for same-sex couples (gay and lesbian couples) to be able to enjoy the rights and benefits of marriage, which was initially only afforded to opposite-sex couples (heterosexual couples). This was extended to opposite-sex couples and couples who were both over 62 in 2020 by SB-30.
Initially, the domestic partnership only conferred limited legal benefits which mostly just included hospital visitation rights, and the right to be recognized as a next of kin and beneficiary of the estate of the deceased partner. Eventually, it was able to give couples who choose not to marry “the same rights, protections, spousal benefits, responsibilities, obligations, and duties” as married couples.
However, there are slight differences between the two, mainly because of the use of the word “marriage”. For instance, federal law does not recognize a domestic partnership, only same-sex marriage. Additionally, some countries like Israel only recognize same-sex marriages, but not same-sex domestic partnerships.
As society continues to evolve to be more accepting, many changes are being enacted to give equal legal rights to same-sex partners and to equally recognize the committed relationships they form like everybody else. This is why the California Family Code is ever-changing.
To keep up to date with the changes being implemented in the California Family Code, including registered domestic partnership benefits and shared health insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to talk to an Orange County, California family law attorney today.
Rights and Responsibilities Afforded to Registered Partnerships by the State Law
As of 2012, the rights and responsibilities afforded by the California State Law to domestic partnerships are as follows:
- Claim inheritance rights as a putative partner,
- The same parental rights given to married spouses,
- Right to request alimony upon dissolution of the partnership via a divorce,
- Community property rights,
- The right for either partner to take the other’s surname,
- Obligation to file state tax returns as a married couple (260k)
- Supervision of the Superior Court of California over dissolution and nullity of proceedings,
- Survivor pension benefits,
- Property tax provisions as given to married couples (Cal. R&T Code §62p),
- Rights involving wills, conservatorships, trusts, and intestate succession,
- Suing for the wrongful death of a domestic partner,
- Presumption of parenthood to a child born into the partnership by both partners,
- Stepparent adoption,
- Sicks care and family leave,
- All forms of spousal insurance through the California Insurance Equality Act (Cal. Ins. Code §381.5),
- Access to family health insurance benefits (Cal. Ins. Code §10121.7)
- Hospital and jail visitation of the sick, injured, or incarcerated person as given to family members (related by marriage, adoption, or blood),
- Making health care decisions on behalf of each other in certain circumstances.
To be able to enter into a domestic partnership in California, a couple must meet the following requirements:
- Both parties are capable of consenting to be in a domestic partnership,
- Both parties are 18 years old or older, except as provided in Section 297.1,
- The two individuals are not related by blood,
- Neither of the two is currently married to someone else or in a domestic partnership with someone else unless it has already been annulled, dissolved, or terminated.
The couple may also choose to enter a confidential domestic partnership that is not open to the public, but the domestic partners must be living together (cohabitation). Non-confidential, or standard, domestic partnerships no longer need to share a common residence.
Registering for domestic partnership is much simpler and less costly than getting married especially since marriages require ceremonies formalized by religious clergy or civil officials. Filing for domestic partnership only requires both parties to create a declaration with their names and addresses, signing it, and having the signature notarized by a notary public.
This will then be filed with the Secretary of State, which will include a $10 filing fee (and for couples under 62 years old, an additional $23 fee that will go into LGBT-related (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) advocacies including LGBT services and LGBT domestic violence training).
Generally, the process for dissolving a domestic partnership involves court action that is similar to the dissolution of marriage. However, in simpler, uncontested cases, couples may be allowed to forego court action, and simply file with the Secretary of State.
Such arrangement only applies to partnerships that have been established for less than five years, with no children (or expected children), no real estate, and minimal debt and jointly-owned property. The couple will then have to sign an agreement with the Secretary of State to divide both their assets and liabilities, as well as forfeit domestic partner support.
The partnership will then end after six months of filing unless either of the two parties withdraws their consent.
If you have any questions regarding civil partnership registration, domestic partner benefits, marriage law, and even common law marriage, don’t hesitate to contact an Orange County, CA family law lawyer at Trevino Law, Inc. an Orange County, California family law law firm.