Fewer Americans are getting married, and many are marrying later in life. Despite this growing trend to forgo marriage, not all states recognize domestic partnerships. While domestic partnerships were originally a popular alternative to marriage when same-sex couples were not allowed to wed, the legalization of same-sex marriage has made this option less popular across the board.

Some couples in California still enter into domestic partnerships, and if you are considering this as an alternative to marriage, it’s important to understand what it means. What are domestic partnerships, and what are partners entitled to in California?

Domestic Partnerships in California

The guidelines for partnership and rights of domestic partners vary from state to state. California allows couples to petition the court and register themselves as domestic partners. There are requirements that you must meet in order to qualify, including criteria involving living arrangements and finances.

While domestic partners are not entitled to the same rights as spouses in California, they do benefit from legal benefits regarding asset distribution and support if the relationship ends. If you have questions about your rights in a domestic partnership, contact a divorce law attorney for personalized guidance.

Defining Domestic Partnerships in Legal Terms

Domestic partnerships are defined as a committed and intimate relationship of mutual caring entered into by two adults. This was originally an avenue for same-sex couples before the legalization of same-sex marriage, but any couples may now enter into a domestic partnership if they meet the following criteria:

  • They must both agree to contribute to living expenses

  • Neither partner can be married or in another domestic partnership

  • The couple cannot be related by blood

  • They must both be at least 18 years old

  • They must file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership

When filing the Declaration, both partners must sign and have their signatures notarized. Then the completed, signed, and notarized form is submitted to the California Secretary of State along with the necessary fee.

Entitlements and Advantages of Domestic Partnerships

Marriages create a binding civil contract between spouses, but domestic partnerships are just a legal recognition that the couple lives together and shares the facets of domestic life with one another. They may not have all the benefits of marriage but domestic partnerships do offer many advantages for couples looking for a way to obtain some legal rights and validate their relationship.

Some of the benefits of domestic partnerships include:

  • Exempt from marriage tax penalties

  • Ability to adopt a child together

  • Legal guardianship rights and decision-making power for children

  • Access to bereavement leave

  • Tie off under the Family Leave Act to take care of their sick or injured partner

  • Inheritance rights

  • Possibility to qualify for family insurance benefits

Difference Between Marriage and Domestic Partnerships

The main differences between marriage and domestic partnerships in California can be found in their respective legal processes. Some of the benefits marriage provides that domestic partnership doesn’t are as follows:

  • Married spouses are able to file joint tax returns and share tax benefits.

  • Marriages provide the possibility for immigration sponsorship.

  • Married spouses are entitled to their husband or wife’s pension and social security benefits.

  • Married spouses can transfer money to each other tax-free.

It is up to each couple to decide if marriage or domestic partnership is right for them, but knowing the pros and cons is necessary in order to make an informed decision. There are differences and similarities, so consider carefully before making a final decision. If you would like individualized advice on California’s requirements and rights for domestic partners, contact Sarieh Law Offices to speak with one of our family law attorneys.

Domestic Partnerships with Help from a California Family Law Attorney

Having a clear understanding of the ways in which domestic partnerships and marriages are similar and different can help couples decide on the next step in their relationships. These two options are not exactly equal in legal protections, but they both offer potential benefits for dating couples in California. Whether you are looking for legal protection, interested in adopting children with your partner, or want the official designation that dating alone cannot provide, contact Sarieh Law Offices for help with your domestic partnership filing.

We understand how important taking the next step in a relationship can be, and we are happy to help couples navigate this legal process with as little stress as possible. When you are ready to benefit from a domestic partnership in California, contact us for a free consultation.