In accordance with Article 297 of California Family Code, domestic partners are “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” California began recognizing domestic partnerships in 1999 and is one of seven states that does so. Within the first decade of the ruling that allowed domestic partnerships in California more than 50,000 couples were registered.
A domestic partnership in California provides same-sex couples with the same obligations, rights, responsibilities and protections as a marriage. This includes liability for each other’s debts, co-ownership of any real estate acquired after the registration of the partnership, the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner, the right to use sick leave to care for a partner and the right to obtain health care through a partner. Also, if either partner becomes a parent, the child will automatically be the legal child of the other parent.
A couple can legally become a domestic partnership by registering with the Domestic Partnership Registry. The couple must file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership (State Form NF/SP DP-1), include notarized signatures and the appropriate state charge, and send to the Secretary of State. The following are the requirements couples must comply with before becoming a domestic partner:
- The couple must share a permanent residence in the state of California.
- Neither member of the couple may be married or officially partnered with anyone else.
- Each individual must be over the age of 18.
- The couple may not be related by blood.
- Each party must consent to the partnership.
- The couple must be of the same sex. The only exception to this rule is for heterosexual couples in which at least one partner is 62 or older. This is because senior citizens often risk losing part of their Social Security benefits if they marry.
Although the state has gone to lengths to equate domestic partnerships to marriage as much as possible, there are some things that domestic partners cannot do. Couples who are in domestic partnerships are unable to jointly file federal taxes because of the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibits the federal law from recognizing their partnership; However, the IRS ruled in 2010 that a couple’s combined income is it’s “community property” for tax purposes. Also, there is limited to no eligibility for long-term care insurance for partners of state government employees. It must be understood before entering into a domestic partnership that generally, if a partnered couple moves to a new jurisdiction their partnership will not be recognized.
Ending a domestic partnership is a fairly simple process. The couple must file a “Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership,” and if the couple meets all 13 requirements in the brochure, the notice must simply be signed, notarized and sent to the Secretary of State. There is no filing fee, and the couple must wait six months for the termination to go into effect. If a partnership does not meet the conditions for filing the Notice of Termination, the couple must file for termination in their superior court.
This article is brought to you by the domestic partnership lawyers at Yelman & Associates. Specializing in all aspects of family law including divorce, custody and child support.
Yelman & Associates
3333 Camino Del Rio South Suite 140
San Diego, CA 92108