Close up of two people holding hands

California Gives Heterosexual Couples a Marriage Alternative 

The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer Oct. 19, 2022

Since 1999, California has recognized the rights of a couple of the same sex to register as domestic partners and enjoy the same legal protections and benefits of marriage. The law also applied to heterosexual couples over the age of 62. Beginning on January 1, 2020, Senate Bill (SB) 30 extended the right to form a domestic partnership to heterosexual couples age 18 or older, or even younger with parental consent. 

The process of establishing a domestic partnership involves filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership, Form DP-1, with the California Secretary of State. Both parties must sign the form and have it notarized and, by doing so, affirm that they have met the requirements of California Family Code Section 297.

If you and your partner are considering the establishment – or dissolution – of a domestic partnership in or around San Jose or Morgan Hill, California, contact the domestic partnership/dissolution attorneys at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer.  

There are many financial and other practical considerations to be weighed in any decision regarding a domestic partnership, and consulting with knowledgeable and experienced attorneys is strongly advised. 

The Law Office of Steven E. Springer also proudly serves clients in Fremont, Hayworth, and Pleasanton, and throughout the counties of Alameda and Santa Clara. 

Domestic Partnerships in California 

The Golden State is quite often at the forefront of pushing initiatives and rights that other states have left on the proverbial backburner, waiting for circumstances to demand action before they do anything. 

This was the case with same-sex partnerships. Long before the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that recognized same-sex marriages, California had already established a legal framework for a marriage parallel in the form of a domestic partnership for same-sex couples. The 1999 law also allowed heterosexual couples 62 years of age or older to declare a domestic partnership. 

SB 30 in 2020 extended that right to heterosexual couples 18 or older, or younger if they can obtain permission from their parents. The process involved is simple enough, requiring only the submission of a notarized form to the Secretary of State. 

However, the couple must meet certain requirements as established in Section 297 of the California Family Code: 

  • Neither person is married or involved in another domestic partnership that has not been terminated, dissolved, or adjudged a nullity 

  • The two are not related by blood in any way that would prevent them from getting married 

  • Both are at least 18 years of age or have obtained the consent of their parents 

  • Both persons are legally capable of consenting to the formation of a domestic partnership 

  • The two live together in the same residence 

Benefits of a Domestic Partnership 

Registering a domestic partnership, just like getting married, opens up benefits at work and through state programs that might not be available if you just live together with your significant other. One thing to remember, however, is that the federal government does not yet fully recognize domestic partnerships as the equivalent of a marriage, and federal benefits may therefore be harder to obtain. 

Rights accruing from a registered domestic partnership in California include: 

  • Up to 12 weeks of leave under the California Family Rights Act 

  • Use of paid leave and sick time to care for family members 

  • Tax benefits (on the state level) 

  • Disability insurance coverage 

  • End-of-life care and family access at hospitals 

  • State healthcare coverage as family members 

  • Parental rights and responsibilities regarding any children 

Dissolving a Domestic Partnership 

Just like a marriage, when two partners decide to move forward without one another – thus ending the legal relationship – things can get a bit complicated and tricky. On the simplest level, the partners can just file Form NP/SF DP-2 with the Secretary of State’s office. At other times, the dissolution must go through a Superior Court proceeding. 

Whichever is the case hinges upon the requirements listed in Section 299(a) of the California Family Code. The code contains stipulations regarding children, real property jointly held, unpaid obligations, and any pre-partnership agreements reached jointly. In other words, the dissolution of a partnership can take on the aspects of a divorce when circumstances so warrant. 

Legal Guidance You Can Rely On 

It may sound prudent to open up a whole new realm of benefits and rights by simply filing a domestic partnership petition, but as with everything in life, reality will have its say. A domestic partnership in California does indeed provide access to benefits otherwise not available if you’re two single people just living together, but financial and other considerations must be accounted for as well. Look before you leap, in other words.  

For concrete advice and planning in the formation, or dissolution, of a domestic partnership, contact the attorneys at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer. We serve clients in and around San Jose and Morgan Hill, California, and can help you navigate the process of forming or dissolving a domestic partnership.