Facing the end of any relationship can be challenging, but when a couple is in a legally recognized domestic partnership, there are steps that must be taken before you can end it.
However, ending a domestic partnership does not always have to be confusing. Here is an explanation of what a domestic partnership is and how one can be terminated in each of the states that still recognize them.
- What is a Domestic Partnership?
- What States Recognize Domestic Partnership?
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in California
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Colorado
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Washington D.C.
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Maine
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Maryland
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in New Jersey
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Nevada
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Oregon
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Washington State
- How to End a Domestic Partnership in Wisconsin
- Do You Need a Lawyer to End a Domestic Partnership?
First, a domestic partnership is a relationship consisting of two individuals who live together but are not legally married or recognized in a civil union. Before the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2015 that same-sex couples could legally wed in all fifty states, some states recognized same-sex unions through civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in the U.S., some states continue to recognize legal relationships such as domestic partnerships. However, marriage status alternatives like domestic partnerships, do not necessarily have the same rights as spouses in a legally-recognized marriage.
It is important to know that not all states recognize domestic partnerships. Therefore, the rights, privileges, and obligations of parties in a domestic relationship may differ from state to state.
States that recognize domestic partnerships are: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Because each state treats domestic partnerships differently, the state in which you obtained your domestic partnership status is typically the same state in which you should expect to terminate your domestic partnership. However, this is not always the case.
In California, a domestic partnership may be terminated in one of two ways. The first way is by filing a Notice to Terminate Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State if certain criteria are met.
As of November 2019, that criteria includes at least one partner obtaining residency status in California at least six months prior to filing the Notice and three months in the county of filing, if the partnership was not registered in California. If the partnership was registered in California, then there is no residency requirement to file the Notice to Terminate Domestic Partnership.
The process to terminate a domestic partnership in California may be sped up if:
- The couple was in an officially recognized domestic partnership less than 5 years;
- The couple shares no children between the partners; and
- The partners agree on the division of property.
The second method for terminating a domestic partnership in California is by filing and obtaining a judgment from the Superior Court, which is a lot like filing for divorce.
Terminating a domestic partnership in Colorado is as simple as filing a Notice of Termination Form with the state clerk, so long as both partners sign the form. At the time of filing, at least one of the partners must be a resident of Colorado for 90 days before filing.
If only one of the partners signs the form, then the signing partner must show that they have attempted to notify their partner about ending their domestic partnership. Further, at least one of the following criteria must also be met:
- The partner is no longer in a committed relationship;
- The partners have ceased sharing a common household;
- One of the partners has died;
- One or both of the partners is no longer exclusively in the relationship; or
- One or both of the partners has married or expects to marry.
There are two ways in which a partner may terminate a domestic partnership in the District of Columbia.
The first method allows either partner to file a termination statement with the Mayor declaring that the domestic partnership is terminated and a copy of that termination statement is given to the partner.
The second method to terminate a domestic partnership is that a partner may file a termination statement declaring that the other partner has permanently abandoned the domestic partnership.
Maine, like other states, has a residency requirement for filing to dissolve domestic partnerships in the state. In order to be able to file to terminate a domestic partnership in Maine, at least one partner must have resided in Maine for at least six months before filing to terminate the domestic partnership.
However, it is still possible to file for termination of domestic partnership in Maine even if neither partner has resided in Maine for six months. However, the reason (or one of the reasons) as to why the domestic partnership is ending must have occurred while both partners lived in Maine.
These causes include: adultery, cruelty, desertion, habits of intoxication, mental illness which requires a partner’s confinement in a mental institution for seven years or more prior to filing, and negligence for support of the partnership.
Maryland requires partners seeking to dissolve their partnership to file a written certification with the state. If one partner files, then the other partner must be notified that their partner has filed to end the domestic partnership.
While this might seem simple compared to other state’s requirements, keep in mind that you will also need to figure out how to divide shared property, debts, and issues with child custody, support, and visitation.
To terminate a domestic partnership in New Jersey, a request for termination must be filed with the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey. The state further requires notification to any entity that was notified when the couple entered into the domestic partnership.
To dissolve a domestic partnership in Nevada, the state requires a filing of a Termination of Domestic Partnership form with the Secretary of State declaring the following:
- The couple has been registered as domestic partners in the State of Nevada for less than five years;
- There are no minor children between the partners, and neither partner is pregnant;
- There is no jointly-owned property, or there is an agreement as to the distribution of the property;
- Rights to future support are waived, or there is an agreement as to future support between the parties; and
- The partners waive any rights to further proceedings.
If this criteria is not met, then the couple must file to terminate the partnership in family court.
A couple in a domestic partnership that is registered in Oregon and who want to terminate it must begin their process in Oregon. This is the case even if neither partner still lives in Oregon.
If one of the partners still lives in Oregon, then that partner may file a petition to dissolve the registered domestic partnership in the county they live. If neither partner is a resident of Oregon any longer, then the petition should be filed in the county in which at least one of the partners last lived.
Washington has established a procedure for terminating domestic partnerships that is similar to divorce, meaning that domestic partners wishing to dissolve their partnerships in Washington, must instigate court proceedings.
The only residency requirement in Washington is that the partner who petitions for dissolution of domestic partnership must reside in Washington State when the petition for dissolution is filed.
Partners in Wisconsin may file a completed notice of termination of domestic partnership form with the same county clerk that issued the couple’s declaration of domestic partnership. The form must be signed by at least one of the partners and notarized.
If only one partner signed the form, then that partner must file an affidavit certifying that they served the other partner in writing or that the other partner has not been found after making reasonable efforts to locate them.
Breaking up can be difficult no matter the circumstances. But, knowing how and where to file for dissolution of your domestic partnership may make the process smoother. Most states that recognize domestic partnerships do so but have residency requirements for filing. Contact a family law attorney in your state to learn more about your rights and obligations.