Many people have heard of terms like domestic partnership and marriage but struggle with understanding them. However, for many Californians, these avenues provide ways for more and more couples to share their futures together. With the federal legalization of same-sex marriages in 2015, California continued to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community as well as for opposite-sex couples who wish to have their relationships legally recognized through domestic partnerships. While marriage is still the more common path, understanding the differences between the alternatives can help you and your partner seek legal recognition of your relationship while benefiting from it.
Domestic partnerships were originally created to help those who were in same-sex relationships have similar benefits to those in marriage. This is still a preferred method for many couples, despite the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. However, there are several differences between these two legal institutions under family law.
For couples who wish to take their relationship to the next step without using a marital path, domestic partnerships could be a viable option. Under the law, they are defined as “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” Traditionally reserved for same-sex couples, domestic partnerships were allowed for opposite-sex couples in 2020 to be able to enjoy some of the same rights and privileges as married couples.
To be in an official domestic partnership, the couple must meet certain criteria:
Both marriage and domestic partnerships allow couples to receive many benefits, but they differ in the legal rights provided. Marriages create a legal civil contract between two individuals, whereas a domestic partnership is simply the recognition that a couple shares a domestic life together. However, domestic partnerships are still a great way to share a life with someone you love and have similar benefits to marriage.
Benefits that couples can enjoy in a domestic partnership include:
While marriage provides all the benefits of a domestic partnership, and both recognize similar rights and responsibilities, there are differences in the legal processes for both. Some of the key differences include:
While these differences are important, and are only a small portion of the differences between the two, the similarities between them highlight the importance of taking a step towards one or the other. In these legal partnerships, there are obligations between partners that must be met. If the partners choose to dissolve either a marriage or domestic partnership, they are subject to the same division of assets, child custody, and spousal support.
While they share similar rights and responsibilities, there are a few legal differences. However, they both signify the legal partnership between two individuals through either domesticity or the contractual recognition of a marriage. Both are still subject to the division of assets, child support, and spousal support should they dissolve. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney can help you determine which choice is right for you and your partner.
While domestic partnerships share similarities with marriages, there are several key differences:
Domestic partnerships are not the same as marriages in terms of taxes. Couples in a domestic partnership may not file their federal taxes jointly, and they cannot claim any form of married status. In addition, they may not use the head of household status, and if they have a child, only one parent is able to claim the child as a dependent, not both.
One key factor in recognizing domestic partnerships is the state in which one lives. Because the federal government does not recognize them, states have the flexibility to create their own rules and regulations. In California, domestic partners must petition the court and register as such. In addition, they must meet the eligibility requirements to qualify.
Understanding the similarities and differences between a marriage and a domestic partnership can help couples, no matter what their makeup, progress their relationship and create a new sense of connection between them. While marriage and domestic partnership are not completely equal under the law, they each provide benefits to couples that allow them to share new experiences in their relationships. If you have questions about domestic partnerships or marriages, and need guidance through the legal process for either, contact the family law team at the Najera Law Group, P.C. Let us help you celebrate your love. Our experienced attorney is ready to help.