Same Sex Marriages and Domestic Partnerships in California

Same Sex Marriage

25 Dec Same Sex Marriages and Domestic Partnerships in California

Same sex marriages have the same status in California as heterosexual marriages. The partners in a same sex marriage have exactly the same rights under law as those in a heterosexual marriage. This means that the procedure for divorce is exactly the same for all marriages in the state.

Same sex marriage in California and domestic partnerships

The status of same sex marriages in California has only been confirmed quite recently when the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the California Supreme Court’s decision to make same sex marriages legal in 2013. The decision seems to have stabilized the law regarding same sex marriages which had been overturned previously as a result of a voter led amendment to the state constitution.

Originally, the California Supreme Court had ruled in 2006 that the state’s ban on same sex marriages up to then was unconstitutional. The ban was overturned finally in June 2008, allowing two people of the same sex to become formally married. However, an amendment to the Constitution called Proposition 8 was passed in November 2008 which overturned the ruling. That meant that same sex marriages that had been carried out between June and November 2008 were considered valid, but those between November 2008 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 were not.

Despite the bans on same sex marriages in the past, two people of the same sex could still obtain the advantages of marriage by forming a domestic partnership. Dissolving a domestic partnership is almost exactly the same as dissolving a marriage, so the procedure for a California divorce is more or less the same regardless of whether it is a heterosexual, same sex marriage involved or a domestic partnership.

Domestic partnerships are still a viable option for any two people who choose not to have a formal marriage. Because of the very brief period in which same sex marriages have been legal in the state, there are many couples that have opted for a domestic partnership instead or by default.

Definition of a domestic partnership

A domestic partnership is one in which the two people, of opposite or same sex, have “chosen to share each other’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.”

To establish a domestic relationship there are certain pre-requisites:

  • The two people must have a common residence;
  • They have filed a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” with the appropriate authority;
  • Neither person in the partnership must be married or in a domestic partnership with anyone else that has not been annulled or  cancelled;
  • The two people are not so closely related that they could not get married;
  • Both are over 18;
  • Both consent to the partnership.

Benefits of a domestic partnership

  • Tax relief (in California);
  • State spousal benefits including workers’ compensation
  • Inheritance rights;
  • Spousal testimonial privilege;
  • Ability to make medical decisions in an emergency;
  • Access to domestic relations laws.

Ending a domestic relationship

There are two separate methods to dissolve a domestic partnership. One of them is the same as for a marriage, whether it is a same sex or opposite sex marriage. This involves filing a “Petition for Dissolution of a Registered Domestic Partnership” with the California Supreme Court. Only one person in the partnership needs to do this while the other person files a response. The partnership is formally dissolved after 6 months has passed with the procedure the same as in the California Divorce Code. As with marriages there may be disputes about property and support after the partnership is dissolved and a divorce lawyer may be needed to deal with the legal options involved.

The second method is to file a “Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership” with the office of the California Secretary of State. The partnership is considered dissolved after 6 months unless one or the other partner has withdrawn the notice.

Separating from your partner is never an easy business. It is best to discuss potential problems well in advance of initiating a termination of a domestic partnership or filing for divorce. In Orange County you can rely on the Law Offices of Damian Nolan, to help discuss your legal options.

The Law Offices of Damian Nolan are available for all manner of family law matters. You can contact the office to make an appointment for a free consultation in Long Beach or Lakewood California by phoning 562-634-1115.

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