When people choose to commit to each other, that can come in several forms. Some people go the traditional route and choose to get married. Others prefer to date one another indefinitely and never get married or legally commit in any way. A third option that’s available to those of us who live in California is a domestic partnership.
What Is a Domestic Partnership?
In most cases, opposite-sex and same-sex couples who live together but are not married can register as domestic partners. Laws regarding domestic partnerships vary from state to state, including requirements for registering as domestic partners. Generally, to register as domestic partners, a couple needs to meet some, or all, of the following criteria:
- Must be unmarried
- Must file a declaration that they are in a serious relationship at a courthouse, with the Secretary of State, or at some other designated government office
- Must be over 18 years old
- Must pay a fee
- Must provide documentation proving they share a permanent residence
- Must not be related to each other
- Must have the legal right to get married to one another
Registering as domestic partners allows couples to enjoy some of the same benefits as married couples even though they aren’t married. Benefits of a domestic partnership include:
- In some cases, domestic partners are eligible to join each other’s health coverage plan.
- Domestic partners are generally eligible to use family sick leave to care for one another if either of them becomes seriously ill.
- Domestic partners usually have visitation rights in prisons and hospitals.
- In many cases, domestic partners are eligible for bereavement leave if their partner passes away.
Despite the benefits domestic partnerships can provide, they are still a very limited substitute for marriage. Unlike married couples, domestic partners miss out on many of the benefits of marriage, such as the following:
- Must do taxes separately instead of jointly
- Must pay estate or gift taxes if they transfer assets to each other
- Domestic partnerships are not recognized in many counties, states, and countries
- In many instances, domestic partners are not eligible to receive their partner’s Social Security benefits if their partner dies
- Unless they are named a beneficiary in their partner’s will or estate plan, domestic partners are not automatically the beneficiary of their deceased partner’s estate
How to End a Domestic Partnership in California
Dating relationships often end with a breakup. Marriages that don’t go the distance usually end in divorce. However, many people have no idea how domestic partnerships end. Generally, domestic partnerships can end in one of two ways. One way is through termination and the other is via dissolution.
Termination involves filing a Notice of Termination with the Secretary of State. Before seeking to terminate a domestic partnership, the partners must meet several requirements, including but not limited to the following:
- Domestic partners must agree to termination
- Both partners must read documentation regarding terminating a domestic partnership in California
- The partnership must not have lasted more than five years
- Any property partners share must be worth less than $43,000 (this excludes vehicles and loans)
- The domestic partners do not share any biological or adopted children
- Any debts or financial obligations the partners share must total $6,000 or less (this excludes vehicles)
- Neither domestic partner is pregnant at the time the Notice of Termination is filed
- The domestic partners must agree to and sign a property settlement agreement before filing the Notice of Termination
- The partners must agree that neither wants spousal support from the other following the termination of their domestic partnership (this excludes anything agreed on in the property settlement agreement)
Once it has been determined that the partners meet all the requirements, they can proceed with terminating their domestic partnership. Keep in mind that after filing the proper paperwork, there is a six-month waiting period before the domestic partnership is officially terminated.
The dissolution of a domestic partnership can be a much longer process than termination. That is because it involves the courts and is more like getting a divorce, annulment, or legal separation. Dissolution of a domestic partnership includes decisions relating to spousal support, property division, child custody, visitation, fathers’ rights, and child support.
Speak with an Experienced Domestic Partnership Lawyer About Your Situation Today
Sometimes what seemed like a good idea at the time runs its course. If you sense that your domestic partnership has run its course, you have options for ending it quickly and in a way that is fair for both you and your partner.
At Arnold Law Group, APC, our team of experienced family law attorneys have over 30 years of combined legal experience helping people just like you end domestic partnerships and marriages. We’ve seen up close how emotionally-charged these types of situations can become. We have helped people end relationships with partners who didn’t want to let them go, and we’ve handled friendly divorce negotiations where both sides treated the other fairly and with respect. In either case, we have protected our clients’ interests as if they were our own and aggressively pursued the best possible outcome to their situations.
For more information about how we can help you, or to discuss your situation with an experienced domestic partnership attorney, call us at (559) 900-1263 or reach out to us online.