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A domestic partnership is a union between two individuals who have chosen to share an intimate relationship with each other. The parties should not be married to each other or to anyone else. This process allows cohabitation couples to make the relationship official outside the standard marriage context.Domestic partnership was originally introduced in the early 1980s for same-sex couples. The opposite-sex partners’ can also enter into domestic partnership relationship if one party is at least 62 years of age. The union is legally recognized and the parties can receive benefits similar to those of married couples. In California law, domestic partnership is considered as a civil union by federal governments with legal rights and responsibilities common to those of married couples. Although, some states do not recognize domestic partnership within the legal context.Our website www.SanDiego-DivorceAttorney.com will provide you with information and resources you need in case you decide to move forward with a domestic partnership union.Who is entitled to a domestic partnership?1.    Heterosexual parties provided one party is 62 years or older and meet the requirements of section 297 of the California Family Code.2.    Non-heterosexual parties (same-sex parties) where both parties are of age 18 or older.3.    A party under 18 years can obtain a court order granting the permission and get consent from the underage partner’s parent.4.    No blood relationship among the parties.5.    No party should be married to someone else or registered in another domestic partnership relationship.AB 205: How Act of 2003 is transforming California’s Domestic partnership lawOn January 1, 2005, an Assembly Bill (AB 205) was passed by the state of California to expand on the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples. The bill is known as the “Domestic partner rights and responsibilities Act of 2003”. This law recognizes the same-sex union in other jurisdictions provided partnership is validly formed according to the set California domestic partnership state requirements.AB 205 ensures the parties have the same rights as married couples. The couples are financially responsible to each other during the relationship. In the event of termination, the party has the right to spousal support.California law courts have a mandate to provide rights and responsibilities to spouses as stated in AB 205 act of 2003. The bill allows couples to register as domestic partners if they are also married to the same person.If you had registered for a domestic partnership before January 1, 2005, you automatically gained the new rights and responsibilities stated by AB 205 act. You don’t need to re-register again unless you had previously terminated your relationship before January 1, 2015.Benefits of registering for domestic partnership relationship.A civil union couple has the same benefits as a married couple. Civil union is most sought after by gay couples in states where traditional marriage is unavailable. AB 205 bill authorizes the same-sex couples to seek civil unions with ease. According to Act 2003, domestic partners are entitled to the following legal benefits and protections:1.    Right to obtain employee sick leave to take care of your sick partner or partner’s child.2.    Right to receive hospital and jail visitations3.    Right to get family health insurance coverage4.    Right to receive a portion of your partner’s property in case s/he dies without a will.5.    Right to receive bereavement leave6.    Right to use step-parent adoption procedures to adopt your partner’s child. 7.    Right to sue for wrongful death of your partner.8.    Right to access survivor pension benefits.9.    Right to seek spousal support (alimony) upon dissolution of the partnership.10. Right to receive half the interest on a property the other partner purchased while in a domestic partnership relationship.Note: For you to qualify for the above legal benefits and protections, you need to register as a domestic partner with the Secretary of the state. Registration with the county or city council is not recognized by the state of California domestic partnership law.What is the difference between domestic partnership and marriage?The federal law does not recognize domestic partnership couples to have same benefits as married couples. This has a significant impact on your life and that of your partner since the following federal benefits are scraped off.1.    You do not receive retirement benefits from the federal government.2.    You receive few rights to health saving accounts. You do not have the right to make any medical or emergency decisions when out of California.3.    You will not receive social security benefits given to married couples under the federal law.4.    You don’t have the right to file federal taxes jointly or receive tax benefits given to married couples.In the US, same-sex marriage bans have declared unconstitutional (Obergefell V. Hodges) e.g. in states like Washington. Registered domestic partnerships automatically became marriages with the legalization of gay marriage. This is different in California since the parties have to agree among themselves if they want to maintain a domestic relationship or they need to get married.How to register for domestic partnershipIf you and your partner are eligible for domestic partnership, you can register yourself with the California Secretary of state. This is done by;1.    Download Domestic Partnership declaration form from http://www.sos.ca.gov/dpregistry/ or pick the form up from the local county registrar’s office.2.    Complete the form and sign in the presence of a notary.3.    Provide your current mailing address. 4.    Pay a $33 processing fee and submit the form to the secretary of state.Upon signing the declaration form, you need to attest that:1.    You have met all the requirements of a domestic partner relationship.2.    You agree to allow California court to petition your case in the event of dissolution of the partnership. This also applies if one or both of you no longer reside in California.3.    The information provided in the form is correct and contain no material omission to the best of your knowledge. In case of any confidentiality, both parties are required to share a common residence and sign a non-confidential form NP/SF DP-1A.Other requirements:You should also consider the following before registering for domestic partnership.1.    Whether your partner or both of you are receiving any benefits like SSI or Medicare prior to registration.2.    If you and your partner will adopt a child from another country.3.    If your partner is a non-US citizen and s/he is in the US without proper documentation or has a non-immigrant visa.4.    If any of you is in the military department.If the above is applicable, it is advisable to contact your San Diego Divorce Attorney or legal counsel to take you through your rights and responsibilities as domestic partners.How to dissolve domestic partnershipPrior to January 1, 2015, termination of domestic partnership relationship was carried through filling a notice of termination with the secretary of state. AB 205 act 2003 provides the domestic partnership relationship be dissolved through court proceedings just like marriages.However, you can also terminate your relationship without court approval if;•    You and your partner have been registered for less than 5 years,•    You and your partner don’t have children or pregnant at the time of dissolution,•    None of you own a real estate property (community property) acquired during the relationship.If both parties fulfill the above termination requirements, you can fill a notice of termination with the secretary of state. A window period of six months is taken to effectively dissolve your partnership. Read more information on the dissolution of partnership requirements from www.sos.ca.gov.In an event you’re both legally married and registered domestic partners, a lawyer is needed to help you file a petition for ending your marriage and the domestic partnership in a local court. If you had a child during termination of the contract, the California court will determine the custody and visitation rights of the child. Both parents may be held responsible for the support of the child. During the court proceedings, all community assets acquired during the relationship are distributed among the parties.In a same-sex relationship, a party can seek alimony and secure child support if the party depended on the other party. If the same-sex couples do not own a real estate at the time of termination of partnership and have been together for less than five years, they can end their partnership through filing a notice with the secretary of state.How to terminate domestic partnership when outside the state of California.At the time of registration, you agreed that the California courts have the power over the termination of your domestic partnership relationship and any other proceeding. Therefore, in the event of dissolution, you can dissolve your partnership with ease even if you no longer reside in California. Consult your attorney determine whether you need to return to the state of California to complete termination procedure or you can terminate while in a different state. Some of the frequently asked questions by clientsDo both parties need to be residents of California to register for domestic partners with the state of California?No. It is not a must for both parties to be residents of California in order to register with the State of California. When you register with the state of California, you should take measures available to protect your relationship while in a different state. There are states which do not recognize domestic partnership within the legal context.Can you re-register with the state of California if you are registered domestic partner in another state?No. The current AB 205 has a provision that, any validly formed civil union of two persons, other than a marriage in another jurisdiction, and it is according to the set California domestic partnership requirements, it will be recognized as a valid domestic partnership. This holds true regardless of whether it is called a civil union, domestic partnership or any other name in that state.Is domestic partnership relationship recognized with other federal governments?Currently, the federal government does not recognize domestic partnership thus providing limited protection to your family as compared to married couples. Other state laws may not support or respect domestic partners and may be hostile to gay and lesbian relationships. How does the state laws treat property owned by registered domestic partners?State laws allow registered domestic partners to own property which is recognized as a community property. The property has survivorship right and in case of death of a party, the property is passed to the surviving partner. Community property does not attract any capital gains when the survivor sells the property due to lack of federal tax recognition benefits for domestic partners.What happens to the property owned prior to domestic partnership registration?AB 205 provides that, all property owned by a partner before registering as a domestic partner remains a separate property. But, if the partner use community funds to pay for the mortgage or improve the property purchased before domestic partnership then the property remains a community property and can be divided among the partners during dissolution.Contact a premier Domestic partnership AttorneyPrior to registration of a domestic partnership, you should weigh the benefits of available options based on your current state and whether you meet the specific requirements. You should also evaluate your rights as an employee in a domestic partnership relationship. The California state law requires all the registered domestic partners to keep an up-to-date address with the Secretary of the state especially if you have moved to a different residence. The addresses should be updated online at www.sos.ca.gov.Domestic partnership and related benefits apply to the specific state you live. If you are in San Diego, and you are considering having a domestic partnership union or terminate your union, our experienced lawyers at San Diego Divorce Attorney can help you through the process. Feel free to call us via 888-888-8888. To learn more about Domestic partnership and how it can apply to your case go to www.SanDiego-DivorceAttorney.com.