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What's the Difference Between Marriage in California and Domestic Partnership?


Question: What's the Difference Between Marriage in California and Domestic Partnership?
The Supreme Court in California ruled that gay marriage is now legal. California also has a domestic partnership law that grants gays and lesbians most of the same rights as a married couple. So what is the difference between a domestic partnership and marriage in California? I spoke with Melanie Rowen, a staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights to find out the answer.
Answer: There are three major differences between marriage and domestic partnerships in California:
  1. Marriage is not a second-class status. Studies have shown that marriage and civil unions or domestic partnerships are not equal.

  2. You don't have to live in California to get a domestic partnership or to get married. You do not have to live in California to dissolve a domestic partnership, but if you want a California divorce, you have to live there for six months. If you are married in California, you most likely will not be able to get a divorce in your home state.

    From Melanie Rowen, NCLR staff attorney: "Also, and this is very important for couples from outside of California to understand, California courts have jurisdiction to dissolve domestic partnerships regardless of where the parties live. But CA courts DO NOT have jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage unless the parties meet the residency requirements for a CA divorce. Under CA law, a judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered unless one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of California for at least six months and of the county in which they are filing for divorce for the three months before they file. This means that couples from other states who come to CA to get married will be unable to obtain a divorce in the event of a later break-up unless either (a) they actually move to CA or (b) their home state decides to recognize CA marriages."

  3. From a practical stand point. It is easier to get a domestic partnership than it is to get married in California.

    From NCLR: "In order to enter into a marriage, a couple must obtain a marriage license and 'solemnize' it – this requires having a ceremony with one to two official witnesses. Couples can enter a domestic partnership by filling out and mailing in a form, the notarized Declaration of Domestic Partnership. They do not need to obtain a license, have witnesses, or 'solemnize' the partnership with a ceremony."

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