Beyond Saying “I Do”: California Removes Hurdles to Uniting Couples


A New California Law Gives All People The Same Options As Same-Sex Couples

To start the new decade, heterosexuals have an alternative to marriage for the first time in California. Like same-sex couples, now all Californian’s can elect to enter into a domestic partnership rather than tying the knot in matrimony. Since 2013 same-sex couples have had both options. All couples over the age of 62 also previously could elect to enter into a domestic partnership as well. The qualifications for entering a domestic partnership are similar for couples that apply for a marriage license.

Who Doesn’t Qualify

  • Anyone under 18 without a special court order
  • Anyone who is already married
  • Anyone already in a domestic partnership with another person

While there isn’t expected to be a rush of couples opting to enter into a domestic partnership over marriage, there are reasons why couples may want to consider the option. For couples wanting to avoid the gender-roles associated with marriage or the religious connotations traditionally attached to marriage, a domestic partnership may be a better choice. Also people hoping to avoid the designation of being married multiple times may prefer a domestic partnership. There are differences that can impact the rights and legal options for people who choose the domestic partnership option.

Different From Marriage

  • Cannot adopt a child from another country
  • Limited rights when traveling to some states
  • Must file federal taxes as single
  • Lower application costs than a marriage license
  • Online application for domestic partnership

While California tax laws treat couples the same whether they are married or are in domestic partnership, the federal tax law does not. That means there are potential tax savings for couples in a domestic partnership. Those couples may be able to avoid the so-called marriage penalty since they must file their taxes individually. There are also easier options in some circumstances for dissolving the union if the relationship doesn’t work out. With a domestic partnership, you can fill out the paperwork online to dissolve the partnership if the relationship lasted less than five years; there are no kids, no real estate holdings and no requests for support or property settlement. Typically though, domestic partnerships and marriages undergo a similar process for splitting up the relationship legally. When it comes to benefits, there are a number of key ways that domestic partnerships are similar to marriage.

Similar Benefits To Marriage

  • Right to own community property
  • Rights of survivorship
  • Receive state-administered partner healthcare benefits
  • Legal rights and obligations for raising a child born during partnership
  • Able to adopt a child previously born to a domestic partner
  • Can take domestic partner’s last name or combine last names

Ultimately couples must weigh the pros and cons and decide which option best fits into their philosophical and legal values. Keep in mind, if you are in a domestic partnership you can opt to get married, but if you are married you cannot opt to be in a domestic partnership without dissolving the marriage first. Regardless the new law now gives all Californians options for expressing their union with the person they love most.