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California Domestic Partnerships and Community Property Law

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What is a Domestic Partnership?

In California, domestic partners are defined as "two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." California domestic partnerships are available to same-sex couples and to opposite-sex couples if at least one person in the opposite-sex couple is over 62 years old. In California, domestic partners must file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State.

What is Community Property?

Some states follow the community property system for determining the distribution of a couple’s assets during and after a marriage or domestic partnership. "Community property" is any asset that both partners own together. "Separate property" is any asset that one partner owns individually.

California is a community property state. In California, all assets acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership are community property, except for each partner’s separate property. The following assets are considered to be one partner’s separate property:

  • Assets acquired by the partner before the marriage
  • Assets acquired by the partner through gift, will, or inheritance
  • Assets purchased with the partner’s separate money
  • Rents, issues, and profits derived from a partner’s separate property

However, spouses or domestic partners can change the character of an asset by making an agreement (either before marriage or during marriage).

How Are Domestic Partners Treated Under California Community Property Law?

In California, community property laws apply to domestic partners just as they apply to married couples.

What Happens to the Community Property When My Domestic Partnership Ends?

If you and your partner get a divorce, you are each entitled to one-half of the community property. Each partner is also entitled to all of his or her separate property.

If your partner passes away, his or her half of the community property passes to you unless he or she left a will saying otherwise.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

If you are considering filing for a domestic partnership, writing a prenuptual agreement or postnuptual agreement, or dissolving a domestic partnership, you should consult an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney can help you understand California’s complicated community property laws and the other implications of a California domestic partnership.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 03-22-2018 11:59 PM PDT

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