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How Does Domestic Partnership Work in California?

A domestic partnership is a legally recognized union between two people who share their lives together and live in one household. The legal recognition granted to domestic partners is much like a marriage, but not in name. If you are interested in becoming domestic partners, find out what this type of relationship signifies, in what ways it differs from other legal unions, and how you can obtain a domestic partnership.

Defining a Domestic Partnership

According to California law, a domestic partnership is defined as “two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” However, individuals who live together and are in a relationship will not automatically be recognized as domestic partners in the state of California. If you wish to become domestic partners, you must pursue legal action.

Becoming Domestic Partners

In order to become domestic partners, the couple in question must register their legal partnership by filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership through the Secretary of State. These documents can be filed at your local court anywhere in California.

However, in order for your registration to be valid, you must also meet the following criteria:

  • Partners share the same home or residence
  • Partners are not married and do not have other domestic partnerships
  • Partners are not blood relations
  • Both partners are at least 18 years old
  • Both partners give their consent to the union

Why Choose Domestic Partnership?

Many couples choose to become domestic partners as a way to make their union legally recognizable without having to become officially married. For many years, domestic partnerships have served as the only way for homosexual couples to declare their commitment for one another. However, now that gay marriage has been legalized, couples who wish to make their commitment legally binding have more options. In any case, some couples, heterosexual or homosexual, prefer to seek a domestic partnership rather than a marriage. Even though couples in either of these types of unions receive the same legal rights and responsibilities, there are a few key differences between the two.

Unfortunately, domestic partnerships are not recognized in every state and country, as a marriage would be. Married couples also receive additional rights under federal and state laws. Married couples are entitled to social security benefits, federal tax benefits (or penalties), and spousal support, whereas domestic partners are not.

Within the state of California, however, domestic partners will receive several state-recognized rights. Domestic partners who live in California can request spousal support if their union ends, and they are also entitled to information and decision-making privileges in emergency medical situations, just as spouses are. If domestic partners wish to put an end to their relationship, they must seek a legal dissolution of marriage, or a divorce. However, if domestic partners were to relocate to another state, that state’s laws might not grant the same rights.

Are you considering filing for a domestic partnership? Our firm can help. Contact Singleton Smith Law Offices, Inc. to discuss your case with our Murrieta divorce attorneys.