Domestic Partners - Domestic partners are "two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." The following discussion is for people who have registered their domestic partnership with the California Secretary of State or the equivalent in another state (such as a civil union in Vermont).
How do I become a domestic partner?
To be domestic partners, partners must:
File a notarized Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State;
Have a common residence;
Not be married or related by blood in a way that would prevent them from marrying;
Be at least 18; and
Either be members of the same sex or one or both of them is over 62 and eligible for Social Security benefits
How do I end a domestic partnership?
Domestic partners have a special form to start their case for dissolution, legal separation or annulment of their domestic partnership. These forms are 1) Petition - Domestic Partnership (Family Law) (form FL-103) and 2) Response - Domestic Partnership (Family Law) (form FL-123). For all other forms to complete their divorce, legal separation or annulment, domestic partners will just use the same forms as those used by married persons.
What are the main differences between divorces of married persons and domestic partners?
Residency - Domestic partners who have registered in California have agreed to the jurisdiction of the California courts to end their domestic partnerships - even if they move away or have never lived in California. If couples have become domestic partners (or their equivalent) in other states, they can file in California to end their domestic partnership if at least one of them is living in California. To file for a divorce, one party will have had to live in California for at least 6 months and the county where divorce is filed for at least 3 months before filing. To file for legal separation or annulment, they can file as soon as they've moved to California. Partner support - unlike spousal support generally, it will probably not be taxable to the person receiving and tax deductible for the person paying. The law allowing for domestic partners to obtain dissolutions, legal separations and annulments is new. There are many things that are still uncertain regarding property, custody and tax issues. It is important to talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable about the law in this area.
What about summary dissolutions?
Domestic partners who meet the following requirements can get a divorce in a simple way.
If you and your domestic partner:
have not been in a registered domestic partnership for more than 5 years on the date you file your Notice of Termination of Domestic Parntership ;
have no children together that were adopted or born before or during the domestic partnership (and the other partner is not pregnant now);
do not own or have an interest in any real estate (house, condominium, rental property, land, or a 1-year lease or option to buy);
do not owe more than $5,000 for debts acquired since the date of your domestic partnership (do not count auto loans); Click here for a worksheet to help you figure your community obligations (opens in new window). Click here for sample/instructions for the worksheet.
have less than $33,000 worth of property acquired during the domestic partnership (do not count your cars); Click here for a worksheet to help you figure the value of your community property (opens in new window). Click here for sample/instructions for the worksheet.
do not have separate property (opens in new window) worth more than $33,000 (do not count money you owe on the property or auto loans);
agree that neither partner will ever get partner support from each other; AND
have signed an agreement that divides your property and debts.
In addition, either you or your domestic partner must have lived in California for the last 6 months and in the county where you file for summary dissolution for the last 3 months.
What about federal laws?
At this point, federal law does not recognize domestic partners. There are over one thousand federal laws in which marital status is a factor. These include rights under Social Security, Medicare, immigration law, veteran's benefits and federal tax laws. Domestic partners also may not have the same rights as married persons once they cross beyond California's borders. This is important for parents to consider in their custody agreement.
What about taxes?
Federal and state tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partners. They can be very complicated and it is important to talk with an attorney or accountant who is knowledgeable in this area about income, property and other taxes.