A registered domestic partnership is a legally-binding contract entered into by two people who wish to formalize their relationship without going through a marriage ceremony. Registered domestic partnerships in California are available to some heterosexual couples and to all same-sex couples.

Who Can Register for a Domestic Partnership in California?

Domestic partnership is an alternative to marriage. In California, any same-sex couple in a committed relationship can choose to register for a domestic partnership if both persons are at least 18 years of age. Persons under the age of 18 in a committed same-sex relationship may also enter into a domestic partnership if they obtain a court order granting permission. In addition, a heterosexual couple may choose to enter a domestic partnership if one partner is at least 62 years of age.

How Do I Register a Domestic Partnership With the State of California?

If you and your partner meet the requirements above you may be eligible to register with the California Secretary of State. You can register by doing all of the following:

What is the Difference Between Marriage and Domestic Partnerships?

Registration in a domestic partnership in California now gives the same state rights and responsibilities as marriage. However, domestic partners are not necessarily able to receive the same federal benefits or have their partnership recognized in other states or countries. Some examples of difference in the rights or benefits that may be granted to married couples but not to domestic partnerships include:

  • Social Security Benefits: Persons entitled to taking social security have their benefits decreased if they are married. However, since the federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships, members of a domestic partnership will not have their social security benefits decreased.
  • Federal Taxes: Since the federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships, any tax benefits or penalties applied to married couples do not apply to persons in a domestic partnership.
  • Emergency/Medical Decisions: While in California, persons in a domestic partnership have the same right as married spouses to make medical and emergency decisions for their significant other. However, since many states don’t recognize domestic partnerships, persons in a domestic partnership may not have this right when out of California.
  • Spousal Support: A court order requiring spousal support for a current/former member of a domestic partnership to pay spousal support may only be recognized in California.

It’s important to note that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states in the U.S. after the Supreme Court decided on Obergefell v. Hodges. So for same-sex couples who hope to receive all of the legal security and benefits of marriage, they can decide to marry instead of registering for a domestic partnership.

Do You Need to Be a California Resident to Register?

No, there is no legal requirement that partners attempting to register as domestic partners in California must be California residents. If you and your partner are eligible you can complete the "Declaration of Domestic Partnership" and have it notarized by a notary in any state. However, the state where you do live may not recognize your union.

How Do You Terminate a Registered Domestic Partnership?

Termination of a domestic partnership is now done through the same process as the dissolution of a marriage. You can also file a “Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership” with the Secretary of State. However, if you’re registered domestic partners and legally married, then you can file a petition to end the domestic partnership and the marriage with a local court at the same time.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me Get a Domestic Partnership?

You may wish to consult with a California family lawyer if you have questions about what rights and responsibilities this procedure gives the partners. If you would like to terminate a California domestic partnership, you will also likely need to consult an attorney.