Under the California law (Ca Fam 97 (et.seq), “Domestic Partners” are defined as “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring (Ca 297 a). This marital “option” has become a popular option among many who are non-eligible to be legally married in the state of California or those who wish to make “official” his/her commitment
Effective, January 1, 2005, those eligible for Domestic Partnership status include members of the same-sex, those who share a common residence and are 18 years or older, or couples where one or both partners are 62 years of age or older and eligible for Social Security benefits.
Those who opt to become domestic partners do not become his/her partner’s spouse, but such couples do attain a broad range of statutory rights and privileges as those of married couples. The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 (which ultimately became effective on January 1, 2005 in California) offer the “same rights, protections, and benefits” as those who choose to marry. It also provides for the “same responsibilities, obligations and duties” as those granted (and imposed) upon spouses who are legally married.
Domestic Partnership became a viable option to many same-sex couples who wished to share property and assets with their partner, as well as the right to be eligible to make medical decisions and become durable powers of attorney regarding healthcare and physician directive decisions on behalf of his/her partner.
In order to become Domestic Partners, both persons must file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership (sample) with the Secretary of State (in California), a document that must be notarized separately for both parties. Domestic partnerships are subject to the same laws and jurisdiction of the California family law courts and must file with the court in order to end their partnership.
A Domestic Partnership contract is much like a marital contract in that in order to undo such a contract, the parties must file for a dissolution or annulment, much like they would if they were legally married. If couples have become domestic partners, they can file to end their partnership in California providing at least one of them is living in California.