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Domestic partnerships are still an option in California

The 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal in all states. However, many couples in California already entered into registered domestic partnerships, and the Obergefell ruling did not change California's domestic partnership laws or make them invalid. This is because a marriage license is not the same as a domestic partnership registration. Therefore, the California Secretary of State's office will still process the creation and the termination of domestic partnerships.

Under California Family Code, Section 297, two adults can become domestic partners, if a number of elements are met. They must decide to share their lives in an intimate and mutually caring way. Neither partner can be currently married or in a domestic partnership. They cannot be blood relatives. Finally, they must either be same-sex or at least one partner must be 62 or above.

There are two types of domestic partnerships that can be filed with the California Secretary of State. One is a Declaration of Domestic Partnership. The other is a Confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership, which is a permanent record that only the registered domestic partners have access.

Under California Family Code, Section 299, a domestic partnership can be dissolved by filing a signed Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership, if there are no children nor is either party pregnant, the domestic partnership has not lasted over five years, and there is no real property in which one party has an interest, except for a lease if certain requirements are met. There must also not be any unpaid debts incurred during the domestic partnership not exceeding a certain amount, except for automobiles.

In addition, the entire fair market value of the assets of the domestic partnership cannot exceed a certain amount, and each partner must execute an agreement regarding property and debt division. Finally, each partner must have waived any right to domestic support, and they must both desire to terminate the domestic partnership. If these elements cannot be met, then the parties must go through a California Superior Court proceeding to terminate the domestic partnership.

Domestic partnerships are still an option for some in California who are in a committed relationship, but do not want to get married. Those who want more information about either entering into a domestic partnership or terminating one may want to seek legal advice.

Source: SOS.Ca.gov, "Domestic Partners Registry," accessed on Oct. 3, 2016

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