Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in California – What Is the Difference?

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Falling in love is an exciting and overwhelming time. You have found someone that you want to build a life with, and you are ready to get started. In many serious romantic relationships, the topic of marriage will be discussed at some point. While there are many benefits to getting married, it is not always the right choice.

In California, couples have several options for creating a legally binding agreement about their relationship. Marriage is the more traditional route and the one that most people are familiar with. Couples may also choose to enter into a domestic partnership rather than get married. A Santa Rosa Family Lawyer from Carroll Law Office can help you understand the options that are available. They can guide you as you decide what is right for your family.

Marriage Laws in California

One option for couples who want to ensure that their relationship is legally recognized is to be legally married. The marriage will be legal if:

  • Both partners are over the age of eighteen.
  • They obtain a marriage license from the state.
  • The ceremony is completed by an approved individual.
  • Neither partner is in another legally recognized relationship.

While this is the most familiar method of legally recognizing a relationship, it is not the only option available.

Domestic Partnership in California

The state of California defines a domestic partnership as two individuals who have chosen to share their lives together. This option was primarily for same-sex couples until recent years when the option was opened to any couple in 2020. Domestic partnerships are legally binding and can offer many benefits for the couple. Registering a domestic partnership is a strong option for couples who wish to have their relationship legally recognized but do not want to be married.

Marriage Rights in California

There are many rights afforded to married couples in California. Some of these rights and benefits include:

  • Visitation rights in the event of hospitalization
  • The right to adopt together
  • Joint tax filing
  • Insurance benefits
  • Government benefits, including social security
  • Division of assets in the event of a divorce
  • Transfer of assets between spouses with no tax
  • Estate planning
  • Rights to children
  • Financial support
  • Consumer benefits

Many other benefits can come along with a legally recognized marriage relationship. These benefits often make marriage an appealing option for couples, but it may not be right for everyone. Couples who want their relationship legally recognized should also consider the benefits of a domestic partnership.

The Rights of a Domestic Partnership in California

Domestic partnerships offer many of the same benefits as marriage for couples in California, but they are not all the same. The benefits of a domestic partnership include:

  • Legal rights to children
  • No marriage tax penalty
  • Bereavement leave rights
  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Right to adopt
  • Use of family leave in the event of a major illness
  • Rights for inheritance

Understanding the differences between marriage and domestic partnership is important when deciding which one works for your family. The guidance of an accomplished family law attorney can also make the process easier to manage. The experienced team at Carroll Law Office is here to help.

How a Santa Rosa Family Lawyer Can Help

The choice between marriage and a domestic partnership is very personal. It can only be made by you and your partner. It is important, however, to have support and guidance regardless of the method you choose. An experienced family law attorney can walk you through each step of any necessary legal process, from child support and custody to asset division.

When you work with an accomplished family law attorney from Carroll Law Office, you can benefit from their education, experience, and resources as you establish your relationship legally. They have dedicated years of their lives to understanding California family law and working with clients. They can guide you through the entire process and work to ensure an ideal outcome.

FAQs About the Difference Between Domestic Partnership and Marriage

What is the downside of a domestic partnership?

Registering a domestic partnership in California has many benefits for couples, but there are also a few key drawbacks. Couples who are in a domestic partnership are not able to file their taxes jointly because they are not recognized as married by the federal government. There also is no guarantee that the partners will be able to receive healthcare from their partner’s plans. Couples who are in a domestic partnership are also not able to transfer assets to their partner without paying taxes.

Does domestic partnership affect taxes in California?

Yes, a registered domestic partnership can impact your taxes in California. A domestic partnership offers many of the same statuses and benefits as marriage. However, not all the benefits carry over. Domestic partners are not considered married, according to state law, so they are not able to file taxes jointly. This may impact the amount you pay in taxes. For many people, however, it also allows them to avoid the marriage tax penalty.

What are the benefits of domestic partnership vs. marriage?

Domestic partnerships and marriages have many of the same benefits, including rights to children and hospital visitation rights. For some couples, not having to pay a tax penalty because they are married is a key advantage. Some couples prefer not to get married or are unable to, so a domestic partnership is the better option for them. The decision between marriage and a domestic partnership is very personal. Only you and your partner can decide which one is right for your life together.

What rights do domestic partners have in California?

A domestic partnership offers many of the same protections that marriage does in California. Some of the rights that couples who choose to enter a domestic partnership have are:

  • The right to adopt children together
  • Inheritance rights
  • The right to bereavement leave
  • The right to use family leave if their spouse is injured
  • Visitation rights
  • The ability to avoid any tax penalties connected with marriage

Contact Carroll Law Office

Committing your life to someone is serious and should be handled appropriately. There are several legal avenues available for you. Understanding the options that are available to you and your partner can help make the decision-making process simpler. The accomplished team at Carroll Law Office is here to help. Trust our team with all your marriage and domestic partnership needs.

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