In the past few decades, marital status for same-sex couples has been a big topic of debate. Marriage is a representation of love and commitment, but more than that, married individuals may receive legal rights and benefits. Some of the rights and benefits fall into several categories including;

  • Tax benefits; abilities to file jointly
  • Estate planning benefits
  • Government benefits
  • Employment benefits
  • Decision-making benefits
  • Financial support
  • Consumer benefits

These benefits strictly pertained to legally married couples. Unmarried couples in domestic partnerships were excluded from these rights. However, since 2015, the United States Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges has legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Even though every state must grant marriage rights, some states have eliminated and do not recognize domestic partnership benefits. Domestic partnership and marriages both have their pros and cons when registering. Financial, estate, and government benefits are all different when applying for a domestic partnership or divorce.   

Here is are a guide to help you understand more about domestic partnerships, and whether it is applicable to you.

What Is a Domestic Partnership?

A domestic partnership is a relationship-defining alternative to marriage for couples who live together. Prior to Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage in all 50 states, only some states acknowledged same-sex marriages. Thus, domestic partnerships were very common amongst same-sex couples that wish to get married in states that did not support this union.

Currently, California along with few other states still offers domestic partnerships to couples that are unmarried, with the same or opposite sex, living together in a committed relationship. Since domestic partnerships are not recognized under the federal government, individuals must check the requirements under each state government before applying. For instance, in certain states, domestic partnership registration is only reserved for same-sex couples.

While a domestic partnership is similar to a marriage, it is not completely the same. However, couples may still enjoy some of the same benefits of marriage.

Am I qualified to register for a Domestic Partnership in California?

As of currently, California’s state law acknowledges, both heterosexual and same-sex couples are eligible to register for a domestic partnership. Additionally, there are five main requirements that the partners must meet in order to register in California;

  • The voluntary consent from both partners agreeing to register in a domestic partnership
  • The partners must not be blood-related
  • Both partners must be over the age of majority; or
  • Partners that are minors may still register but are required to have both court and parental consent

What are the steps to Register as a Domestic Partnership in California?

Depending on each state’s jurisdiction, individuals can initiate a domestic partnership by registering in one of three ways; Registering with an employer, local government, or the state.

In California, couples may register a domestic partnership by following these steps;

  • Complete Forms: Once all the necessary requirements are met, partners must complete a Declaration of Domestic Partnership form (Form DP-1 ). The form should include both of the partners’ signatures.
  • Applicable Fees: When all the forms have been completed, the partners shall proceed by submitting the completed forms attached with the appropriate fee. The filing fees will depend on several factors such as the partners’ age, special handling, and certification fees.
  • Submit Forms: Forms can be submitted in one of two ways; either by mail to the California Secretary of State or delivering it in person at the California Secretary of State’s Los Angeles office.

An important note when registering is to remember that all the steps mentioned are required to be done by both partners. This means that there should be two forms that are filed and signed by each of the parties.

What Benefits Can I Receive from a Domestic Partnership?

As mentioned, the benefits of domestic partnerships are not exactly the same as a marriage. Moreover, the benefits may slightly differ depending on which state you are in (try to stick to California laws, or at least include the specific California provision). The common benefits include;

  • Sick and bereavement leave
  • Health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Death benefits and inheritance rights
  • Visitation rights in jails and hospitals
  • The power to make medical or financial decisions for a partner
  • Accident and life insurance
  • Housing rights, and
  • Parental leave and adoption benefits

Although the benefits may vary, one notable difference in contrast to marriage benefits that is consistent in all states is that tax benefits are not recognized in domestic partnership benefits under the federal government.

Major Differences Between Domestic Partnership and Marriage

In conclusion, domestic partnership and marriages have their perks. For individuals who might be considering between the two options, here are some key differences;

Domestic Partnership:

  • Partners may be together and enjoy certain benefits without having to get married
  • Can avoid marriage tax penalty because they cannot file taxes jointly
  • Divorce is not required to terminate the partnership under certain conditions

Marriage:

  • Generally have more rights and benefits, including federal joint tax returns
  • Legal and recognized in all 50 states
  • Supported by most insurance policies

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been thinking about domestic partnerships or marriage, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.