San Diego Domestic Partnership and Same-Sex Marriage Lawyer
While California has recognized same-sex partners’ right to marry since 2013, many gay and lesbian couples in California remain in domestic partnerships and civil unions. As time moves on, partners in all types of relationships can start to drift apart. When this drifting leads to a point of irreconcilable differences, it may be time to move on.
At the Law Office of Renkin & Associates, we provide legal guidance and representation to individuals planning for same-sex marriage, as well as those seeking to divorce or dissolve a domestic partnership or civil union. We know that these can be emotional times in your life, and we are here to help you make sure that you make smart decisions about your future.
The History of Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions and Same-Sex Marriage in California
In order to understand your options in a divorce or when seeking to dissolve a domestic partnership or civil union, it is important to understand how the law on same-sex relationships in California got where it is today.
The California legislature amended the Family Code to establish the State’s domestic partnership registry in 1999. The purpose of the change in the law was to afford same-sex couples “the same rights, protections, and benefits, and . . . the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law,” as married spouses. Qualifying same-sex partners can file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State, and in doing so receive the legal and tax benefits of marriage. While domestic partnership registrations were much more common prior to California’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013, domestic partnerships remain a viable option for same-sex couples to this day.
While California law does not offer a mechanism for same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, it does recognize same-sex unions entered into in other states. The law treats civil unions as domestic partnerships, meaning that gay and lesbian couples that have entered into civil unions outside of California will be afforded the benefits of marriage the same as couples in registered domestic partnerships.
California first recognized same-sex marriages on June 16, 2008. However, when Proposition 8 was passed later that year, it banned the further issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Proposition 8 remained the law for approximately the next five years, until the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry on June 27, 2013. Although same-sex couples could not marry while Proposition 8 was in effect, marriages already in place remained valid.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court awarded another victory to same-sex couples when it declared that all states must both allow and recognize same-sex marriages. The landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges means that same-sex couples that marry in California will now have their marriages legally recognized in all 50 states.
Planning for a Same-Sex Marriage
If you are preparing to enter into a same-sex marriage, it is important to understand your rights – and your options for protecting those rights – in the event of a death or divorce. While no one likes to think about these difficult issues when they are planning to start a new life with their partner, having a plan in place can both (i) provide valuable piece of mind, and (ii) help make things easier down the road should an unfortunate circumstance arise.
We regularly advise clients on issues such as:
- Transitioning from a domestic partnership or civil union to a same-sex marriage
- Rights to make medical decisions
- Rights to health insurance and life insurance proceeds
- Ownership and distribution of marital and non-marital property
- Custody and visitation rights
- Rights to inherit property your spouse dies without a will
The laws governing same-sex relationships are still relatively new, so the legal landscape is continuing to evolve. As an experienced divorce attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, Richard Renkin stays at the forefront of the issues affecting same-sex couples in California and nationwide.
Civil Union Divorce Rights in San Diego
In regards to Civil Union divorces in California, California passed Assembly Bill 205 in January 2005,which granted many rights and responsibilities of marriage to domestic partnerships. As a result of this bill, domestic partnership rights in California include being able to adopt and inherit, make medical decisionson the partner’s behalf, extend health care coverage to partners of employees at state and local businesses, get paid time off for the domestic partner as well as hold power of attorney and be an estate executor.
Civil Union Laws
Within the context of the United States, the Government Accountability Office is the federal office that developed and enforces the marriage laws for all of the U.S. including California. These marriage laws include Social Security benefits, housing assistance, food stamps, veteran and military benefits, joint tax filing, employment rights, medical benefits, immigration rights, financial disclosure responsibilities, crime information laws, loan application rights and other undefined legal applications.
Also, marriage can be terminated in any state, not just the state that granted the marriage license. Civil unions may be ended only in the state that granted the civil union or a state that recognizes all civil unions.
Differences in Civil Unions
The major difference in California law and federal marriage law, among other things, is that married couples can do the following but domestic partners cannot: file joint federal taxes, transfer assets to the other person without tax penalty and provide health insurance to the spouse or partner while employed at a company outside of California. Domestic partners cannot receive Social Security and veteran’s benefits after the other person has died, and immigrants cannot become U.S. citizens after partnership.
Ending a Marriage, Civil Union, or Domestic Partnership
If you are considering ending a same-sex marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership, you will need to address the challenges involved in filing for dissolution or divorce. Attorney Richard Renkin provides thorough, experienced representation for divorces and dissolutions in the greater San Diego County area. Read more about filing for divorce in San Diego.
Speak with a Certified California Family Law Specialist
If you have questions about beginning or ending a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, the Law Office of Renkin & Associates is here to help. For more information, call us at 619-299-7100 or contact us online to speak with a San Diego family law attorney today.