The method to terminate a domestic partnership varies according to the state in which you obtained it in. The process for ending a state domestic partnership is usually the same as ending a marriage, including residency requirements, although the filing fee and forms may differ.
Does Termination of a Domestic Partnership Differ Between States Which Recognize Them?
Not all states recognize domestic partnerships; only states which recognize a partnership can terminate one. It is also important to remember that each state which recognizes a partnership may confer a different level of benefits. Some states grant the right to adopt children while other states don’t. Similarly, some states grant property or retirements rights for their partners while other states do not. Of the eleven states which recognize domestic partnerships, only California offers the same amount of benefits to partners as married spouses. Hawaii and Washington D.C. also recognize domestic partnerships, but the former offers civil unions while the District of Colombia recognizes same-sex marriage.
The varying levels of rights and benefits between the states means that division of property, child custody/support and other issues from termination of the partnership will differ wildly between the states.
There are two ways to terminate a domestic partnership in California. First, if specific requirements are met, a domestic partnership may be terminated by filing a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State. In order to qualify, all of the following requirements must be met:
- Domestic partnership lasted less than 5 years
- No children born before or during the domestic partnership
- No children adopted during the domestic partnership
- Neither you or your partner are pregnant
- You and your partner do not have any interest in real estate
- Neither you nor your partner is renting any land or building
- Except for automobile loans, your community obligations do not exceed $5,000.
- Except for automobiles, your community property is worth less than $33,000.
- Except for automobiles, neither you nor your partner has separate property totaling more than $33,000.
- Both of you agree that you do not want money or support from the other partner except what is included in the property settlement agreement dividing the community property and community obligations.
Additionally, you or your partner must have lived in California for the last 6 months.
If any of these requirements are not met, you must initiate dissolution proceedings in the Superior Court. You may file any one of the following three petitions: a Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership; a Petition for Judgment of Nullity of Domestic Partnership; or a Petition for Legal Separation of Domestic Partnership. These dissolution proceedings are similar to divorce and you may need a qualified California family lawyer to assist you.
To terminate a domestic partnership in New Jersey, you need to file with the Superior Court. The fees for filing an action or proceeding for the termination of a domestic partnership shall be the same as those for filing an action or proceeding for divorce. The grounds for terminating a domestic partnership are the same as for divorce:
- Desertion of one year or more
- Extreme cruelty
- 8 month separation
- Drug abuse or habitual drunkenness of over one year
- Institutionalization for mental illness for over 2 years
- Imprisonment for over 18 months
Additionally, the Superior Court is NOT required to make an equitable distribution of property, either real or personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by both domestic partners or either domestic partner during the domestic partnership. The New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act does not require alimony and gives no guidance on child custody however in complex situations involving children and property, retaining an experienced New Jersey Family Law attorney may be prudent.
To terminate a domestic partnership in Colorado, at least one of the partners must file a Notice of Termination Form with a state clerk. Colorado requires that at least one partner in the relationship must be a resident of the state for 90 days before filing. In addition, the filing partner must also show at least one of the following:
- No longer in a committed relationship
- No longer share a common household
- One of the partners is deceased
- One or both of the partners has more than one partner
- One or both partners has become or expected to become married
In order to end a domestic partnership, one of the partners must have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing for termination. Alternately, one of the partners may file for termination if one of the causes for ending the partnership occurred in the state while the partner was residing in Maine:
- Extreme cruelty
- Desertion for 3 consecutive years prior to filing
- Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication from the use of liquor or drugs
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Mental illness requiring confinement in a mental institution for at least 7 consecutive years prior to filing
- Wanton negligence for the support and care of the other partner
Maryland holds a residency requirement of one year prior to filing for termination. In addition, the state may also ask for a waiting period of up to one year before issuing the final decree. The state may also ask what the grounds (or reason) for ending the partnership is. Acceptable reasons include, but are not limited to:
- Voluntary separation
- Two year separation
As noted above for other states, the services of a Maryland family lawyer may be helpful to assure you of the best outcome.
Nevada offers two methods for terminating a domestic partnership. The partners may follow the divorce procedure of the state: residing in the state for six months prior to filing for termination and providing legal grounds for ending the partnership, such as incompatibly or insanity. Alternately, the partnership may be ended through a domestic partnership termination by filing for termination with a court clerk and meeting the following criteria:
- Registered as domestic partners with the State of Nevada for five years or less
- Does not have or support any minor children
- Does not hold any joint or community property
- Waive the right to partner support or a more broad proceeding for such issues under Nevada law
Oregon establishes the same procedures for ending a domestic partnership as it does for the divorce of a marriage. The partnership must be formed by the state of Oregon and at least one partner must be a resident of the state for six months prior to filing for termination. There are many qualified
Domestic partnership termination in the state of Washington follows the same procedure as a divorce. In order to file for termination, the state requires that the partnership has irreconcilable differences, differences which cannot be resolved, and that the partnership meet one of the following residency requirements:
- The filing partner lives in Washington
- The non-filing partner leaves in Washington
- The non-filing partner is a member of the armed serves stationed in Washington
Washington family courts also have a waiting period: a Washington judge cannot hear a case for partnership termination until 90 days after a partner has filed the necessary forms.
Wisconsin requires that a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership be filed with a court. Wisconsin does not require any formal grounds for ending a partnership other than that the partners have has irreconcilable differences, disputes which cannot be resolved. However, Wisconsin does require that the filing partner reside for six months in the state and thirty days in the county before filing with the county family court. There is typically a ninety day waiting period after the Notice is filed with the court clerk.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Terminate my Domestic Partnership?
Terminating a domestic partnership varies considerably from state to state. In some cases it's as easy as filing a single form. In other states it is as complex as a divorce. You should contact a family attorney in your state to determine what is necessary to terminate your domestic partnership. Your attorney will be able to advise you of your state's laws and can help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the termination process.