If you and your partner have lived together in California and portrayed yourself as though you are married, you may think you have entered into a domestic partnership or a civil union. Most states no longer recognize this type of domestic arrangement but some still do.
At Szeto-Wong Law, our family law attorney in Cupertino wants to make sure you understand whether or not a domestic partnership arrangement applies in your situation. These arrangements come with benefits and responsibilities, so you don't want to assume anything. Contact us online or call us at (650) 425-6264 to schedule a consultation and learn more.
Domestic Partnerships in California
In its broadest sense, a domestic partnership is formed when two people, who are not married and are not related to one another, live together and engage in a committed, romantic relationship. While it is often assumed that these couples must be in a same-sex relationship, each state has its own more specific rules as to what constitutes a domestic partnership, and many do recognize opposite-sex couples.
Requirements to be considered a domestic partnership vary by jurisdiction. In most cases, the legal arrangement is no longer relevant. If it does apply, however, to establish a domestic partnership, couples typically register with either their employer, state, or local government. There is usually an application that must be filed and a filing fee.
Domestic partnerships are quite similar to civil unions, it's just a different name to describe similar situations except for two key differences. Civil unions have historically involved more shared responsibilities than what has been attributed to domestic partnerships, and domestic partnerships often carry limited rights as those traditionally provided for in civil unions.
Benefits of a Domestic Partnership in California
There are benefits to being in a domestic partnership. In many jurisdictions, these partnerships offer some, if not all, the same benefits of a traditional marriage, including:
- Insurance Benefits: Many people enter into domestic partnerships due to the ability it affords one partner to extend the healthcare benefits they receive from their employer to the other partner. This includes medical, vision, and dental benefits. Life insurance may be included as well.
- Visitation Rights: In case one partner is incarcerated or hospitalized, a domestic partnership typically allows the other partner the right to visit them.
- Employer Benefits: Domestic partners are often capable of having additional benefits from their employer, including adoption benefits, and sick and bereavement leave.
These benefits are the driving force behind most people filing for domestic partnership status.
Challenges to a Domestic Partnership in California
While there are benefits to being in a domestic partnership, there are also some challenges in many jurisdictions, including:
- Tax Issues: Domestic partners are not allowed to file taxes jointly. Also, health insurance benefits extended by one partner's employer to the other partner may be considered taxable income.
- Inheritance Matters: If one partner dies intestate, the other partner may not automatically inherit from them. If there is a Will, and they inherit through that, they may have to pay an inheritance tax.
- Social Security: A domestic partnership does not provide one partner the ability to receive the other partner's Social Security benefits after death.
Remember, challenges related to domestic partnerships vary significantly by jurisdiction.
Termination of a Domestic Partnership in California
Ending a domestic partnership varies by jurisdiction. It may involve simply filing a document that formally ends the partnership, or it may be more complicated and involve proceedings similar to those in a divorce.
In some jurisdictions, you might need to formally divide assets and seek alimony and/or child support, as applicable.
Speaking with our family law lawyer can help you understand if you were in a domestic partnership in the first place, and if so, what you need to do to terminate it.
Contact a Domestic Partnership Lawyer in Cupertino Today
As the laws surrounding domestic partnerships vary widely by jurisdiction, it is definitely in your best interest to speak with an attorney that understands how the laws in your area work. If you do not retain an attorney and try to figure out how domestic relationships in your locale are defined, formed, and ended, it is likely you will miss something that is important to your individual circumstances.
Contact Szeto-Wong Law online or call us at (650) 425-6264 to schedule a consultation.