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New Domestic Partnership Laws

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Heterosexual couples now have an alternative to marriage. As of January 1, 2020, heterosexual couples can now enter into domestic partnership in California.

Prior to the new law going into effect, only same-sex couples and heterosexual couples over the age of 62 could enter into a domestic partnership. Since 2013 same-sex couples have been allowed the choice of either entering into a domestic partnership or entering into a marriage, but now domestic partnership is generally available to anyone who wishes to enter into one.

There are, however, still certain individuals who do not qualify to enter into a domestic partnership. This includes anyone under 18, people who are already married, people who are not legally allowed to marry, such as certain individuals related by blood, and those who are not capable of consenting to a domestic partnership.

But, why would a couple want to enter into a domestic partnership? There are many benefits to doing so such as owning property together that can be characterized as community in nature, the ability to receive state-administered partner healthcare benefits, legal rights and obligations for raising a child born during the partnership, the right to adopt a child previously born to a domestic partner, rights of survivorship, and the ability for either partner to take the other’s last name or combine their last names. These benefits are similar to those one would receive in a marriage as well.

There are differences, however, between a domestic partnership and a marriage. For example, domestic partners can’t adopt a child from another country together, can’t sponsor a non-citizen partner applying for citizenship, and may have face limited rights and protections afforded to married couples when traveling in other states where domestic partnerships are not recognized.

Couples may choose a domestic partnership over marriage for a variety of reasons. Some may want to avoid the religious connotations of marriage or the stigma of multiple marriages following divorce. It is important to note, however that a domestic partnership still requires that the parties dissolve the domestic partnership, which is a similar process to dissolving a marriage, should they no longer want to be a couple. Additionally, though domestic partners can file state taxes jointly, they are still considered single for federal tax purposes and will need to file two separate federal returns.

Parties wanting to enter into a domestic partnership law can do so by filling out the required forms which can be found on the Secretary of State’s website. Couples will also need to pay a fee – $33 for those under 62, and $23 for those over 62.

What if domestic partners want to dissolve the partnership? Generally, as stated above, domestic partners must file an action to dissolve the domestic partnership to end the relationship. But, not all domestic partnerships require this. Domestic partnerships that are less than five years in duration, and in which there have been no minor children, and meet certain financial and property requirements, including not requesting support or other property settlement, can file a termination of domestic partnership form with the California Secretary of State.

Whether you a looking to begin a divorce or terminate a domestic partnership, the skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Argyris Mah, LLP can help guide you effectively and efficiently through the process. Please contact our office for a free initial consultation at 408-214-6366 or via email at info@argyrismah.com

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