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California Extends Domestic Partnerships to Heterosexual Couples




In 1999, California established the domestic partnership option for same-sex couples and couples over age 62 as a substitution for marriage. Almost immediately, several advocacy groups begin to push the state to provide this same option to all couples. The efforts increased in 2013 when California granted marriage rights to same-sex couples, who could then choose between both types of legal relationships.

Conservative and religious groups have protested this shift due to the fear of losing the institution of marriage entirely. However, beginning in January of 2020, all couples can now choose between marriage and domestic partnerships. Exceptions include relationships among minors, blood relatives, people who are legally incapacitated, and people who are already married or in a domestic partnership with someone else.

What Are the Benefits of a Domestic Partnership?

Marriage carries the weight of both romance and tradition. For many families, marriage is still a cornerstone and foundation of life. Although a significant portion of Americans is still attracted to the idea of marriage, couples are, on average, getting married later in life. Some are foregoing the institution altogether.

Here are a few reasons people become domestic partners rather than spouses:

  • They have an issue with the history/original purpose of marriage (e.g. religious connotations, patriarchal institutions, etc.).
  • Younger generations are generally less concerned with tradition.
  • Domestic partners can get married without dissolving the partnership.
  • Domestic partners enjoy the same legal benefits as spouses, such as optional last name changes, protections for one partner when the other dies, rights/obligations in raising children, sharing state benefits, community property, and more.
  • Domestic partners can avoid the “marriage penalty,” or the obligation to file a joint federal tax return that combines their incomes and pushes them into a higher tax bracket.
  • Widows receiving benefits or assets from a deceased spouse’s estate will likely continue to receive this income, even if they enter a domestic partnership.
  • If they want to dissolve the partnership, domestic partners can do so without the hassle of a divorce if they meet certain requirements.

Does the Federal Government Recognize Domestic Partnerships?

While California recognizes domestic partnerships among straight and gay couples, the federal government does not. Therefore, domestic partners may lose rights when they travel to different states, and they may not have access to certain federal rights, even when residing in California. Some of these include sponsoring an immigrant who is applying for citizenship, jointly adopting a child from another country, and sharing federal employment benefits.

Still Unsure of Which Partnership Is Right for You?

With ever-changing laws, discrepancies between state and federal statutes, and nuanced differences between each type of legal relationship, choosing the right path for your relationship and family may be a challenge. If you are unsure of your rights or options, Moshtael Family Law will take a close look at your situation and help you find the most appropriate and beneficial way forward. We have more than over 130 years of combined experience, and we want to put this experience to work for you.

To learn more about our legal services, get started with an initial consultation or call us directly at (714) 909-2561 today.

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