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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Divorce > The 101 On Domestic Partnership Dissolutions In California

The 101 On Domestic Partnership Dissolutions In California


Until very recently many states across the U.S. did not recognize same-sex marriages as legal unions. When California legalized same sex marriage it acted as a harbinger of change, and, with time, the right for same-sex couples to marry became a federal surety.

Before same-sex marriage was legalized, many same-sex couples who were not permitted to legally married chose to pursue registering a domestic partnership instead. These registered domestic partnerships do carry with them most, though not all, of the rights and responsibilities afforded to couples who are married under California law. Notably, domestic partnerships are subject to the same laws governing community property as California marriages.

One other (unfortunate) similarity between marriages and domestic partnerships is that they do not always work out. Because domestic partnerships and marriages enjoy many of the same benefits, it stands to reason that dissolving a domestic partnership takes a similar level of effort to dissolve. This article aims to discuss some of the rights and responsibilities granted through domestic partnerships, as well as the process for dissolving such a union.

Domestic Partners Have Many of the Same Rights as Married Couples

Some of the rights enjoyed by domestic partners that are also granted to married couples include:

  • Visitation rights in hospitals
  • Right to enjoyment of your partner’s insurance policy
  • Enjoyment of family leave and sick care
  • Shared parental rights
  • Inheritance rights
  • Community property rights
  • Right to make health care decision for partner if they become incapacitated

Essentially, domestic partnerships receive all of the same rights as married couples under California law. The difference between the unions is that while California recognizes the domestic partnership union, it is not a partnership that is recognized by the federal government. This means that while a married couple may receive some federal benefits due to their union, like federal tax breaks, those same benefits would not be afforded to domestic partners.

Similar Rights in Dissolution

Just as married couples and domestic partners enjoy similar rights and benefits due to their recognized unions, domestic partners should expect that the dissolution of their domestic partnership will look similar to the dissolution of a traditional marriage.

For example, just as a court is required to order spousal support under certain circumstances when a marriage is dissolved, one domestic partner may be ordered to make a support payment to the other in the same manner. Just as in a traditional marriage, the amount of that payment and the length of time it must be given depends upon the length of the partnership and each partner’s ability to financially support themselves.

How Do I End My Domestic Partnership?

To end a domestic partnership a party needs to either file a petition for dissolution (divorce petition) or pursue a summary dissolution.

A summary dissolution may be the right choice for you if:

  • You registered as domestic partners less than five years ago;
  • You share no children, real estate, or other real property, and
  • You meet California’s financial criteria

Annulments may also be possible in certain rare cases. An experienced attorney will be able to review the specific facts of your case and help you determine which avenue for dissolution will best serve your current situation.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

Contact the experienced San Francisco divorce lawyers at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young if you are considering dissolving your domestic partnership. Our esteemed team can help ensure that you receive the representation and guidance you deserve as you make this life transition.


Domestic Partnership FAQs (ca.gov)

California Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws – FindLaw

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