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Domestic Partners - Domestic partners are "two adults who have chosen to share one
another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." The following
discussion is for people who have registered their domestic partnership with the California
Secretary of State or the equivalent in another state (such as a civil union in Vermont).

How do I become a domestic partner?

To be domestic partners, partners must:

  • File a notarized Declaration of Domestic Partnership  with the California Secretary of
    State;
  • Have a common residence;
  • Not be married or related by blood in a way that would prevent them from marrying;
  • Be at least 18; and
  • Either be members of the same sex or one or both of them is over 62 and eligible for
    Social Security benefits

How do I end a domestic partnership?

Domestic partners have a special form to start their case for dissolution, legal separation
or annulment of their domestic partnership. These forms are 1) Petition - Domestic
Partnership (Family Law) (
form FL-103) and 2) Response - Domestic Partnership (Family
Law) (
form FL-123). For all other forms to complete their divorce, legal separation or
annulment, domestic partners will just use the same forms as those used by married
persons.

What are the main differences between divorces of married persons and
domestic partners?

Residency - Domestic partners who have registered in California have agreed to the
jurisdiction of the California courts to end their domestic partnerships - even if they move
away or have never lived in California.
If couples have become domestic partners (or their equivalent) in other states, they can
file in California to end their domestic partnership if at least one of them is living in
California. To file for a divorce, one party will have had to live in California for at least 6
months and the county where divorce is filed for at least 3 months before filing. To file for
legal separation or annulment, they can file as soon as they've moved to California.
Partner support - unlike spousal support generally, it will probably not be taxable to the
person receiving and tax deductible for the person paying.
The law allowing for domestic partners to obtain dissolutions, legal separations and
annulments is new. There are many things that are still uncertain regarding property,
custody and tax issues. It is important to talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable about
the law in this area.

What about summary dissolutions?

Domestic partners who meet the following requirements can get a divorce in a simple way.

If you and your domestic partner:

  • have not been in a registered domestic partnership for more than 5 years on the
    date you file your Notice of Termination of Domestic Parntership ;
  • have no children together that were adopted or born before or during the domestic
    partnership (and the other partner is not pregnant now);
  • do not own or have an interest in any real estate (house, condominium, rental
    property, land, or a 1-year lease or option to buy);
  • do not owe more than $5,000 for debts acquired since the date of your domestic
    partnership (do not count auto loans); Click here for a worksheet to help you figure
    your community obligations (opens in new window). Click here for
    sample/instructions for the worksheet.
  • have less than $33,000 worth of property acquired during the domestic partnership
    (do not count your cars); Click here for a worksheet to help you figure the value of
    your community property (opens in new window). Click here for sample/instructions
    for the worksheet.
  • do not have separate property (opens in new window) worth more than $33,000 (do
    not count money you owe on the property or auto loans);
  • agree that neither partner will ever get partner support from each other; AND
  • have signed an agreement that divides your property and debts.

In addition, either you or your domestic partner must have lived in California for the last 6
months and in the county where you file for summary dissolution for the last 3 months.

What about federal laws?

At this point, federal law does not recognize domestic partners. There are over one
thousand federal laws in which marital status is a factor. These include rights under Social
Security, Medicare, immigration law, veteran's benefits and federal tax laws. Domestic
partners also may not have the same rights as married persons once they cross beyond
California's borders. This is important for parents to consider in their custody agreement.

What about taxes?

Federal and state tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partners. They can be
very complicated and it is important to talk with an attorney or accountant who is
knowledgeable in this area about income, property and other taxes.



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