Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in California (2024) – What Are the Differences?
When it comes to legally joining their lives together, same-sex couples in California can choose between marriage and domestic partnership. While a marriage and a domestic partnership share some similarities, there are also some very large differences between the two. Depending on the benefits and legal rights you and your partner are looking for, one …
When it comes to legally joining their lives together, same-sex couples in California can choose between marriage and domestic partnership. While a marriage and a domestic partnership share some similarities, there are also some very large differences between the two. Depending on the benefits and legal rights you and your partner are looking for, one option may work better for you than the other.
Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between domestic partnerships and marriages in California.
Benefits Provided by Domestic Partnerships
Domestic partnerships were originally created when same-sex marriage wasn’t federally legal and different states wanted to provide an option that offered couples similar benefits. While same-sex marriage is now legal across the country, domestic partnerships are still available for those who think that they are the best option. The benefits that are provided to couples who join a domestic partnership include:
- No marriage tax penalty.
- The ability to adopt together.
- Legal rights to raise, take care of, and make decisions for children.
- Bereavement leave.
- Visitation in applicable circumstances.
- Family leave for a sick or injured partner.
- Inheritance rights and obligations.
- An alternative to marriage that still provides legal benefits.
- In most cases, partners are eligible for family insurance.
Benefits Provided by Marriage
While domestic partnerships and marriages share some similar benefits, marriages do offer some rights that are not granted in a domestic partnership. The benefits provided to couples who decide to get married in California include:
- Shared tax benefits.
- Social security or pension benefits.
- Shared insurance benefits.
- Asset division following community property guidelines.
- The ability to transfer assets between spouses without being taxed.
- The ability to adopt.
- Legal rights to raise, care for, and make important decisions for children.
- Visitation in applicable circumstances.
- Receive financial support from the other spouse.
- Estate planning rights and benefits.
- The ability to sponsor your partner for immigration.
The Main Differences Between Marriage and a Domestic Partnership
While California law does recognize domestic partners and married couples similarly when it comes to their responsibilities and rights, the key aspects that differentiate the two legal processes are:
- Married couples can file taxes together and share benefits.
- Married couples can have property divided fairly if a divorce
- Married couples can sponsor their partner for immigration to the US.
- Married couples are entitled to their spouse’s legal benefits like social security and pensions.
- Married couples can transfer assets between themselves tax-free.
How Do You Know If You’re Qualified for a Domestic Partnership?
California has guidelines on whether a couple may be eligible for a domestic partnership in the state. To be able to file for a domestic partnership, you and your partner must meet the following criteria:
- You both must be over the age of 18 and be consenting adults.
- You must share a common living residence and plan to do so long-term.
- You cannot be blood-related.
- Neither partner can be a part of an active marriage or a domestic partnership at the same time.
- You must agree to share living expenses together.
- Both partners must be of the same sex.
How Do You Know If You’re Eligible for Marriage in CA?
The requirements for marriage eligibility differ slightly from those of a domestic partnership. Both partners must meet the following criteria to be legally married in California:
- Both partners must be over 18 years of age and be consenting adults.
- You must obtain a valid marriage license from the state government.
- Neither partner can be in another active marriage or a domestic partnership at the same time.
- The marriage ceremony must be performed by an authorized individual such as a priest, judge, or other party with the proper legal qualifications.
FAQs About Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in California
Is It Better to Be Married or Have a Domestic Partnership in California?
Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on the benefits you and your partner are looking to receive. For example, if you want your property to be considered “communal” and be fairly divided if you and your partner separate, then a marriage may be a better choice to give you more benefits. If you and your partner plan on living together long-term, sharing your lives together, but don’t necessarily want the commitment or title that a marriage brings, then a domestic partnership may be better.
Is a Domestic Partnership the Same as Being Married?
No. While a domestic partnership offers similar rights and benefits that a marriage does, there are some rights that are gained strictly through marriage. Marriage is also the only legal way to pronounce someone your husband or wife.
Are Domestic Partners Considered Spouses in California?
While domestic partnerships in California are recognized by the state to have similar responsibilities as marriages, the law does not recognize partners as spouses like it does in marriages.
What Qualifies as a Domestic Partner in California?
California’s Family Code considers a domestic partnership to be a committed, intimate relationship between two adults who have decided to share their lives together.
Can You End a Domestic Partnership?
Yes. Unlike a marriage that must go through the divorce process, a domestic partnership in California can be ended by filing a Notice of Termination through their local secretary of state. Most likely, partners will have to go through a dissolution process in court.
Figuring Out What’s Best for You and Your Partner’s Future
In the end, the final decision on whether a domestic partnership or marriage suits you and your partner best is up to you. Regardless of what decision you make, our team here at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin is prepared to help you take the next steps in your future together. With almost two decades of experience serving the Orange County area, we are dedicated to compassionately helping our clients in a variety of family law areas.
If you are considering a domestic partnership or same-sex marriage in California, contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with the process.