Couples who have made the decision to commit their lives to one another may wish to form a formal and legal partnership. Domestic partnership offers many of the same benefits and responsibilities as marriage, although as an institution, it is in its infancy. As more and more Californians enter into, and exit out of, domestic partnerships, legal standards are developing to guide the process. A domestic partnership lawyer with knowledge of the latest California legal news can help draft agreements between domestic partners or assist someone with a partnership’s dissolution.
Domestic Partnership Law
The law creating domestic partnerships in California took effect in 2005. It allows couples to acquire legal status as “domestic partners,” similar to that of a married couple, with many of the same features as marriage:
- Property acquired by one or both domestic partners is deemed community property, and is owned jointly by the partners. Disposing of significant community property may require the consent of both partners.
- Debts may be incurred on behalf of the community, and either partner may be liable for repayment.
- Domestic partners have a duty to support one another. This means a duty of care and support during the partnership, but can also mean a duty of one partner to pay alimony to the other in the event of a dissolution.
- The creation of a legal relationship between a child and two domestic partners can be complex and is highly situation-specific. For example, in lesbian couples, a presumption of parentage would apply if a child is born into the domestic partnership. By contrast, in gay male couples, there cannot be a child “born into” the domestic partnership, so one of the two partners might donate sperm and have a child through a surrogate mother. In that case, surrogacy laws would be applicable. Also, if one domestic partner already has a child prior to the partnership, there are adoption options available to the other partner.
- If there is a minor child, and the Domestic Partnership is terminated, both domestic partners have a duty to support the child and the right to seek a custody and timeshare determination.
Domestic Partnership Agreements
Individuals planning on forming a domestic partnership should consider a written agreement, much like a premarital agreement, regarding their financial assets in the event of the dissolution of the partnership or the death of a partner. Since the court system is still figuring out many of the features of domestic partnerships, couples may prefer to address these issues early rather than leave their finances in a court’s hands. These financial and family issues may include:
- Maintaining separate finances during the partnership.
- Dividing property upon separation or dissolution of the partnership.
- Protection of each partner from the other partner’s debts.
- Clarifying each partner’s financial and other responsibilities during the partnership.
- Financial protection for children and other dependents.
Elainie Honjas is an experienced California family law attorney who helps couples and families craft domestic partnership agreements that meet their current needs and prepare them for the future. She focuses on the client and provides support, service, and sound legal advice throughout the case. Our office represents clients in the city of San Jose, as well as the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, San Francisco, and Contra Costa. To arrange for a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, please call our office at 408-292-4849 or contact us online.