Burnham v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System involved the determination of whether or not a domestic partnership existed.
This is an unusual case in that the parties never married but instead signed an application for domestic partnership in front of a notary. However, before the application could be filed, one partner passed away. The parties were heterosexual and qualified to become domestic partners at that time, because at least one of them was above the age of 65. In this case, the surviving partner requested survivor benefits from the decedent’s retirement plan.
The family court found that the surviving partner did not establish that a domestic partnership existed, because it was not registered. The family judge also stated that the surviving partner did not qualify as a putative spouse because the putative spouse doctrine protects the expectation of the parties who accumulate property over time believing that they are a valid union. The surviving spouse appealed.
The appellate court agreed with the trial court and upheld the order. The appellate court found that the filing of the paperwork for the domestic partnership was a necessary act in order to establish a domestic partnership. When one partner passed away before the filing of the application for the domestic partnership, the surviving partner did not qualify as a domestic partner under the law. In addition, the putative spouse doctrine protects expectations of accumulated wealth through the joint effort of both parties. Since the parties did not accumulate wealth, the putative spouse doctrine did not apply. In this case the partner was attempting to look forward to future benefits rather than look backward at wealth that was already accumulated.
If you need legal advice and are looking for a family law lawyer in Orange County to address a registered domestic partnership issue or any other divorce matter such as legal separation, annulment, custody, child support, spousal support and/or property division, please consider Treviño Law in your divorce attorney search. We are located in Laguna Hills right off Lake Forest exit to both the 405 and 5 freeway.
Although the posting of this information can be considered free legal advice for a divorce in Orange County, it does not address other factors which may play a significant role in a particular dissolution. Circumstances in your divorce may alter the results in your dissolution.
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