Not all couples choose marriage
There are certain non-marital partners living together that are eligible under California law to register as “domestic partners” [California Family Code § 297 et seq.] “Domestic partners” are “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” [California Family Code § 297 (a)]
The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act, which took effect January 1, 2005, conferred a wide range of rights and responsibilities on couples who register in California as domestic partners and give them many of the rights of married couples. The Supreme Court's decision legalizing same sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges did not change California's domestic partnership laws. The state still registers and dissolves domestic partnerships.
If you are in a committed lesbian or gay relationship in California, you may register as domestic partners in order to benefit from the legal rights of domestic partners. If you are in a committed heterosexual relationship where one partner is 62 years or older, you also have the opportunity to register as domestic partners.
Registering a “domestic partnership” does not make the partners “married” or “spouses” in the eyes of California Family Law. However, domestic partners nonetheless acquire a broad range of statutory rights and privileges.
The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act expanded the rights of couples who register as domestic partners to provide them with the rights and responsibilities enjoyed under a marriage or civil union.
The new law included provisions for creating and dissolving domestic partnerships, community property and financial obligations, parental rights and responsibilities, governmental benefits, heath care, and estate planning and inheritance rights.
In order to enjoy the rights and benefits of domestic partnership, you must officially register as a domestic partnership with the State of California Domestic Partners Registry and enter into a domestic partnership agreement that is filed with the State of California.
Such agreement confers legal rights upon both parties, and addresses the legal and financial consequences that would result if the partnership is dissolved in the future, as well as the process of dissolving the partnership.
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