In California, domestic partners wishing to end their legal relationship have several options. Understanding what each entails will help couples end their partnership with as little resistance as possible. Here, we will discuss two common routes domestic partners may follow: termination and dissolution.
Ending a Domestic Partnership with a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership
Couples in a registered domestic partnership may file a Notice of Termination with the California Secretary of State; however, specific criteria must be met for eligibility for termination. Even if only one of the requirements is not met, couples may not file for termination of their domestic partnership. A domestic partnership must meet all the following prerequisites:
- Both partners must read and understand the brochure “Terminating a California Registered Domestic Partnership”.
- Both parties must agree to the termination.
- The domestic partnership has not lasted longer than 5 years.
- No child was born to the couple before or after registering the partnership.
- No children were adopted during the domestic partnership.
- Neither party is or has knowledge of being pregnant when the Notice of Termination is filed.
- Neither individual owns any real property, including land or buildings.
- Neither individual rents real property with the exception of the shared residence or property where the lease includes a purchase option and/or will end after one year of filing the Notice of Termination.
- Neither partner owns property with a combined worth of more than $43,000, excluding loans or cars.
- Shared property is worth less than $43,000, excluding loans and cars.
- Shared financial obligations or debts do not exceed $6,000, excluding car loans.
- A property settlement agreement detailing the division of assets and debts has been prepared and signed before filing for termination.
- Both parties agree neither wants financial assistance from the other, excluding what has already been detailed in the property settlement agreement.
This option is generally less expensive and tedious than filing for dissolution with the California Superior Courts, and allows couples more autonomy as decisions regarding property and maintenance are in their hands rather than the court’s. Termination occurs automatically six months after filing the Notice for Termination of Domestic Partnership.
Ending a Domestic Partnership through Dissolution
If a registered domestic partnership does not meet all the requirements for filing for termination, the couple or individual must file a Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership with a California Superior Court. If only one partner wants to dissolve the partnership, a copy of the petition and the court summons must be hand delivered to the other by an outside party over the age of 18.
The primary difference between filing a Notice of Termination and a Petition of Dissolution is dissolution grants partners the right to appear before a judge, who will make decisions regarding custody, property, and financial support or maintenance. Upon reviewing a case, a judge will decide:
- How property will be divided. Property obtained prior to establishment of the domestic partnership or by gift or inheritance is generally considered separate property and will likely remain intact. Otherwise, property accumulated during the partnership will be divided based on each partner’s interest or stake.
- Whether maintenance should be awarded. Maintenance is the financial support of one partner by the other after the relationship ends. A judge will determine if maintenance is appropriate based on several factors, including the duration of the partnership, the standard of living maintained during the partnership, and the financial circumstances of each partner.
- Custody matters, including where the child or children will live, visitation rights, and which parent has the right to make major life decisions for their child, such as medical care and schooling.
Dissolution of domestic partnerships entail a much longer process than termination. A Petition for Dissolution for Domestic Partnership can take at least six months after initiation, but can be a drawn-out process for couples who cannot resolve issues amicably.
If you are in need of legal assistance to end your domestic partnership on the best possible terms, please contact us to speak with an experienced family law attorney. Norman Dowler attorneys counsel and represent individuals in all aspects of family law, including prenuptial agreements, adoptions, paternity suits, domestic partnerships, and marital separations and dissolutions.