Domestic Partner

What Is A Domestic Partner And What Are Their Rights?

A new law in California provides marital rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples, or unmarried heterosexuals over the age of 62 who register in the state of California as “Domestic Partners.” A Domestic Partner is a person, not necessarily a spouse, with whom you cohabit and share a long-term sexual relationship.

Opponents of same-sex marriage fought hard to block the passage of this law but this attempt was denied this past December by the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento. On January 1, 2005 California Family Code §297.5(a) was enacted, stating “registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections and benefits and, shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed on spouses.”

The newly enacted law has been deemed retroactive, meaning it is applicable to all partners registered in the state from the time of their registry. The California Secretary of State states in its web-page “If you are in a committed lesbian or gay relationship in California, you can protect yourself and your partner by registering as domestic partners. If you are in a committed opposite-sex relationship where one partner is 62 years or older, you have the opportunity to register as domestic partners. It is important to register if you want your relationship to have legal standing. While registration isn’t the same as marriage, it does secure many important rights and responsibilities. Under current law, registration can protect your rights in times of family crisis, protect your children, and give you access to family benefits at work.”

This new law significantly changes the rules of the game. Pursuant to Family Code §297.5(a) there is a “creation and dissolution” of Domestic Partnerships parallel to marriages; additionally there are community property rights, financial obligations, parental rights and responsibilities and estate planning issues that were not available to the unmarried couples that co-habited in the past.

The effects of this law are grand in scale, where experts believe that the underlying legislative intent is to replace the word “spouse” in all statutes and regulations with “Domestic Partner,” thereby providing the same martial rights and responsibilities to registered “Domestic Partners.” Areas of law clearly not affected by the enactment of this California Law are individual taxation and federal laws and regulations applicable to married individuals.

If you have decided to become Domestic Partners, you must register with the secretary of state Domestic Partner Registry by preparing and executing the Declaration of Domestic Partnership. See further instructions and downloadable forms at

Particular questions will arise for the division of community assets upon the dissolution of a Domestic Partnership; interpreting Family Law which states all property acquired during a marriage is deemed community property. Other issues will deal with estate planning and estate taxes. Like all new laws, there are many questions that remain unanswered and only time will tell us how this law will ultimately affect the lives of Domestic Partners.

This column is produced by Mary Der-Parseghian, Esq. For questions or comments, please send your message to 4727 Wilshire blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90010; E-mail: or call at 323-937-2727. For additional articles please visit our webpage at

© 2011. Der-Parseghian Law Group


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