Before marriage was legalized for same-sex couples in California, California had an alternative to marriage available for same-sex couples and some opposite-sex couples. This system of “domestic partnership” is similar to marriage and has many of the same rights and benefits. However, the differences between the two are important to consider when deciding what you and your significant other would like to do regarding marriage or domestic partnership. The Ventura divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain the benefits of domestic partnerships in California.

What is a Domestic Partnership in CA?

A domestic partnership is an alternative to marriage in California. Before 2008, California would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gay marriage has been legal in California for over 10 years now with multiple other steps being taken to legalize marriage equality, and domestic partnerships are not used as frequently as they used to be. However, you can still seek a domestic partnership instead of marriage.

A domestic partnership gives a couple the same rights and protections as a marriage, but it has a different name. Domestic partnerships are only available to same-sex couples and couples where one spouse is over the age of 62. In many of these cases (prior to 2008), the couple may not meet other eligibility requirements for marriage and could enter into a domestic partnership instead.

A domestic partnership is not a relationship where two people live together but are not married. Two or more people cohabitating during a relationship do not have any legal rights similar to the rights that spouses or domestic partners get. Instead, the law treats them as roommates, which may lead to certain legal and property rights, but simply living together does not put you into a domestic partnership.

Are There Benefits to a Domestic Partnership Instead of Marriage?

Before 2008 and during the period before marriage equality in the U.S., domestic partnerships had dozens of benefits for same-sex couples. The primary purpose of enacting domestic partnership laws was to help same-sex couples and elderly couples get visitation rights at hospitals and to allow same-sex partners to share insurance benefits. California enacted these laws to benefit groups that were particularly vulnerable and had these rights ignored if they were not properly married – namely same-sex couples and elderly individuals. In some cases, same-sex partners and partners who marry later in life may still be denied shared coverage or visitation rights, but this should not happen and is likely the result of discrimination or improper insurance filing. In any case, having a domestic partnership instead of a marriage does not typically make visiting your partner or covering them under your health insurance any easier.

Domestic partnerships may seem easier or simpler in cases where a breakup is likely, but this is not the case. Marriages and domestic partnerships are ended under nearly identical systems. While two spouses are “divorced” through divorce proceedings, domestic partners must use a nearly identical process to “terminate a domestic partnership,” which requires you to file with the court and get approval as if you were married. Our Ventura same-sex divorce attorneys can help with your case.

Individuals cannot get remarried or enter into another domestic partnership until their previous partnership or marriage has been dissolved through court proceedings, so having a domestic partnership has no benefit for getting remarried, either.

The primary benefit of choosing a domestic partnership instead of marriage is comfort with the terminology. Many couples may not want to be “married” or may not want to be legal “spouses.” Choosing a domestic partnership instead allows you to have many of the same benefits as marriage without calling it a “marriage.” This may also be beneficial for couples who are uncomfortable with terms like “husband” or “wife,” but it is also possible to get married and simply use different terms socially.

Is it Easier to End a Domestic Partnership than Get Divorced?

As mentioned, the processes for ending a domestic partnership and a marriage are nearly identical. Though the process is not called “divorce,” it has all the same steps and requirements as the process for divorce. This means that you must still go to court, follow waiting period requirements, establish child custody and child support rules, decide whether there will be alimony or spousal support, establish the division of shared property, and perform other necessary steps for a divorce. This also means that you should hire an attorney to help you through the case to terminate your domestic partnership.

California Domestic Partnership Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you are trying to decide whether to enter into a domestic partnership or get married, talk to our Ventura family law attorneys today. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s family law attorneys can help you understand whether a domestic partnership has any benefits in your situation that would make it preferable to marriage. For a free legal consultation or help with a divorce or termination of a domestic partnership case, call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.