Comparison of Benefits, Marriage vs. Domestic Partnership

A domestic partnership in California is almost exactly like a marriage. Other than laws related to state income taxes, any California law that now refers to spouses or marriage or uses the terms husband or wife also applies to domestic partnership and domestic partners.

Potential Drawbacks to Domestic Partnership

  • If a domestic partnership is dissolved, community property laws mean that the higher paid person in the relationship may have to share income and assets with the former partner.
  • Couples coping with immigration issues don’t benefit from registration. Domestic partnerships to not qualify an immigrant for status as a permanent resident.
  • While domestic partnerships allow Couples to file state taxes jointly, the federal government does not recognize domestic partners and therefore federal taxes must be filed separately.
  • Couples concerned about their privacy should know that the registrations are public record and can be accessed for a fee.

Terminating a Domestic Partnership

If, as a couple, you meet specific criteria, you can file a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State without filing a superior court action for dissolution of your domestic partnership.  Once the Notice of Termination is filed, there is a six-month waiting period before the termination is final.

The criteria are:

  • There are no children of the relationship of the parties born before or after registration of the domestic partnership or adopted by the parties after registration of the domestic partnership or adopted by the parties after registration of the domestic partnership, and neither of the registered domestic partners, to their knowledge, is pregnant.
  • The registered domestic partnership is not more than five years in duration.
  • Neither party has any interest in real property wherever situated, with the exception of the lease of a residence occupied by either party which satisfies the following requirements:
  1. The lease does not include an option to purchase.
  2. The lease terminates within one year from the date of filing of the Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership.
  • There are no unpaid obligations in excess of the amount described in paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 2400, incurred by either or both of the parties after registration of the domestic partnership, excluding the amount of any unpaid obligations with respect to an automobile.
  • The total fair market value of community property assets, excluding all encumbrances and automobiles, including any deferred compensation or retirement plan, is less than the amount described in paragraph (7) of subdivision (a) of Section 2400, as adjusted by subdivision (b) of Section 2400, and neither party has separate property assets, excluding all encumbrances and automobiles, in excess of that amount.
  • The parties have executed an agreement setting forth the division of assets and the assumption of liabilities of the community property, and have executed any documents, titles, bills of sale, or other evidence of transfer necessary to effectuate the agreement.
  • The parties have read and understand a brochure prepared by the Secretary of State describing the requirements, nature, and effect of terminating a domestic partnership.
  • Both parties waive spousal support.
  • Both parties desire that the domestic partnership be terminated.