Dissolution of Same-Sex Marriage & Partnership Agreements

Confusion Regarding Same-Sex Parties’ Legal Options

Confusion abounds with respect to the termination of same-sex relationships. The best way for an individual to determine their legal options is to first understand the type of legal relationship they have (or had) with their same-sex partner.

Commitment Ceremonies: In California, the law bestows no legal rights to parties who went through a commitment ceremony. So, whether the relationship lasted one day or fifty-years, the law would not afford the couple the legal rights, duties and responsibilities that come about when a couple married or registered their relationship with the California Secretary of State.

Domestic Partnership Registration

Local Registration

Several cities and counties allow residents to locally register their domestic partnership. This type of registration is not to be confused with domestic registration with the Secretary of State which imposes legal duties and rights to the registered parties. The benefits of the local registration include providing the domestic party with basic benefits, such as medical benefits, to both parties.

Registration with the California Secretary of State

If a couple qualifies for registration of their domestic partnership with the California Secretary of State, California law will bestow the partnership with a vast range of legal rights, duties and responsibilities upon the registered partners. (Family Code section 297)

It is important to know that with the passage of each month, the laws are changing across America regarding same-sex marriages and domestic-partnership registrations. For instance, there are now approximately 15 states in which same-sex couples can enter into committed legal relationships through state-recognized procedures.

Same-Sex Marriage

On February 14, 2004, San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom, made history when he mandated that the city clerk begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This simple gesture was the catalyst to bringing, to America’s forefront, the legal determination of marital rights of same-sex partners.

Any same-sex couple who married during the window period from June to approximately November 4, 2008 is considered “legally married.” Before June 2008 and after November 5, 2008, only the marriage equivalent, domestic partnerships, is available to same-sex couples in California.

Termination of Domestic Partnership or Dissolution of Same-Sex Marriage

If a couple is registered locally, there is usually nothing for the couple to do since the local registration bestows nothing except basic local benefits, such as medical insurance.

Whether or not registered domestic partners can termination their registration depends on whether they satisfy all statutory requirements, to include:

  • Both parties want to terminate their domestic partnership
  • The parties have not been registered as domestic partners for more than 5 years
  • There are no children born to the parties before or during the domestic partnership
  • Neither party is pregnant
  • Neither party owns any real-estate

If the registered partners meet all requirements, they are allowed to terminate their domestic partnership directly with the California Secretary State (Form NP/SF DP-3-Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership). (Family Code 299)

Dissolution of Marriage and Domestic Partnership

If a same-sex couple married during the period from June to November 4, 2008 and/or the parties do not meet all the requirements of Family Code 299, then the parties would need to dissolve their partnership through the California courts.

Dissolving the partnership and/or marriage in court is no different than for hetero-sexual couples. The court would require that all legal issues be resolved, such as spousal support, child support, custody, visitation, division of assets, debts and retirement accounts, and, of course, dissolving the partnership and/or marriage. Some couples both registered their domestic partnership and married.

How Can Ms. Garrett Help?

Ms. Garrett is available to provide a for-profit consultation to assist you in assessing and identifying your legal rights—based on the legal relationship, if any, you have with your partner.

If judicial intervention is needed to dissolve your partnership or marriage, Ms. Garrett is available to provide coaching on an hourly basis (a-la-carte). Fees vary based on type of Service purchased.

For further information on this topic, please visit and subscribe to Ms. Garrett’s California Family Law and Divorce Blog

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