Understanding Domestic Partnerships in California
In California, a domestic partnership offers many of the same legal benefits as marriage and is available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Establishing a domestic partnership is a significant legal step that requires understanding the eligibility requirements, necessary procedures, and implications for your legal status.
Eligibility Criteria for Domestic Partnerships
To enter into a domestic partnership in California, you must meet specific criteria:
- Both partners must be at least 18 years old (or have obtained a court order if under 18).
- Neither partner can be married to someone else or be part of another domestic partnership.
- The two individuals cannot be related by blood in a way that would prevent them from marrying each other.
- Both partners must be capable of consenting to the domestic partnership.
Filing for a Domestic Partnership
To legally establish a domestic partnership, follow these steps:
- Complete the Required Form: Obtain and fill out the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form (Form NP/SF DP-1), which is available on the California Secretary of State's website or office.
- Notarization: Have your signatures notarized on the form to verify authenticity.
- Submit the Form and Fee: Submit the completed form to the Secretary of State along with the required filing fee. As of our knowledge cutoff date, the fee is generally around $33, but it's important to check for current rates as they may change.
- Receive Certificate: Once processed, the state will issue a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership, confirming your legal status.
It's essential to keep in mind that registering as domestic partners is not just a formality; it comes with legal responsibilities and rights similar to those of marriage, including but not limited to health care decisions, property rights, and responsibilities for debts.
Rights and Responsibilities
As registered domestic partners in California, you will have rights such as:
- The ability to get coverage under your partner's health insurance plan.
- Rights related to child custody and visitation if you and your partner separate.
- The ability to inherit from your partner in the absence of a will.
It's also important to understand that you'll share responsibility for each other's debts and are required to support each other financially.
Dissolving a Domestic Partnership
If you wish to dissolve your domestic partnership, it involves a process similar to divorce. You'll need to file paperwork with the court and may need to divide property, determine spousal support, and if applicable, make arrangements for child custody and support.