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What Legal Rights Does a California Domestic Partnership Create?

When California first created the legal relationship of "domestic partner," domestic partners had relatively few legal rights. Today, two people who commit to a California domestic partnership have the same legal rights, protections, and benefits, as well as the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties that married couples have. 

These rights include being allowed to make health care decisions for each other in circumstances in which married couples would be able to do so. Domestic partners in San Diego County and throughout California are also granted hospital visitation rights, and may take family leave to care for an ill domestic partner as for a spouse. They may access health insurance and other insurance through their domestic partner's employer.

Of tremendous significance are the rights domestic partnerships convey with respect to children. Domestic partners are both presumed to be the parents of a child born into the partnership, and for those whose partners have children from a previous relationship, domestic partnership grants the ability to adopt under stepparent adoption procedures. In essence, California domestic partners have the same parental rights and responsibilities as spouses in any marriage, including the right to parenting time for children if they were born or adopted during the marriage.  The issues of both child and spousal support arise in domestic partnership matters.    

Domestic partnerships also provide numerous financial benefits. Domestic partners have the same rights as spouses regarding inheritance, whether or not an estate plan is in place. They receive access to survivor benefits from a partner's pension, and have legal standing to sue for the wrongful death of a domestic partner. Domestic partners are treated the same as spouses with respect to property tax provisions, and are required to file California state tax returns as a married couple.

San Diego Bar AssociationSection of Family LawCalifornia State Bar Family Law American Bar Association Avvo Clients' Choice 2014