Domestic Partnership Attorney Referral Service

What Is Domestic Partnership?

A domestic partnership is a legal relationship that is available to same-sex couples, as well as to certain opposite sex couples. If an opposite sex couple are both under the age of 62, they cannot have a domestic partnership.

A domestic partnership essentially affords a couple the same rights, protections, and benefits, and the same rights, obligations, and duties under the law as married spouses.

In California, domestic partnerships are equivalent to the civil unions offered in other states.

Does the State of California Recognize Domestic Partnership?

California does recognize domestic partnerships. This type of relationship has evolved since its inception in 1999. In the beginning, it only afforded partners hospital-visitation rights and the right to be claimed as a next of kin of the estate of a deceased partner. Since then, domestic partners have been afforded all of the rights and responsibilities common to marriage.

A key difference is that even though the state of California recognizes domestic partnerships and afford domestic partners all of the rights a married couple would have under state law, federal law does not recognize domestic partnerships.

To be eligible for a domestic partnership, a couple must:

  • Be persons of the same sex
  • If under the age of 18, obtain written consent from the underage partner’s parent or legal guardian. A court order must also be obtained. If a parent or legal guardian is not available to consent, then the court may provide the underage person consent to establish a domestic partnership
  • Neither partner must be married to someone else or be a member of another domestic partnership
  • The partners must not be related by blood in a way that would prevent them from being married to each other
  • Both partners must be capable of consenting to the domestic partnership

If My Partner Leaves Me, Can I Get Alimony or Financial Support?

A domestic partner can ask for partner support. For this to happen, the partners must be in the process of legally separating or dissolving their domestic partnership.

Temporary partner support can be awarded while the separation case is ongoing. Once the separation has been finalized, permanent or long-term partner support can be ordered.

Partner support does not have to be ordered by a judge. Partners can come to an agreement and memorialize it in a partner support agreement.

If you are considering doing this, it is important to consult with someone experienced in California family law that can help explain how partner support works and what your rights area. This area of the law can be complicated, and it is not wise to go into it without being fully educating on to what you are entitled and with what you are dealing.

How Can an Attorney Help?

An attorney experienced in domestic partnerships can help a couple in various ways.

First, an attorney can help a couple form a domestic partnership by fulfilling all of the requirements needed to form one.

Second, if the domestic partnership suffers a breakdown, and the partners want to dissolve their partnership, a domestic partnership attorney will be able to counsel his or her client on the process and what is required.

If a partner would like to obtain partner support after dissolving the partnership, an attorney experienced with partner support issues can ensure that the partner is well-educated on what he or she is entitled to as well as how partner support works.

If the dissolution is amicable, an attorney could help the two partners write a partner support agreement. If the dissolution is more contentious, an attorney can help calm emotions, help the parties think rationally, and help present a case to a judge if it gets to that point.

For a referral to a properly vetted attorney, contact the Attorney Referral Service of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association (818) 340-4529.