Wail Sarieh
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Seniors’ Problems with the CA Domestic Partnership 2005 Legal Changes

Domestic Partnership

While the gay community had lobbied for and celebrated the 2005 domestic partnership legal changes, many seniors did not share their enthusiasm.  The two demographics had different goals when selecting domestic partnerships and changes that served the gay community’s goals did not serve seniors.

As a result of 2005 amendments, seniors were saddled with—

  • Community property rights
  • Mutual responsibility for debts to third parties
  • Rights to seek financial support from the other partner when dissolving the partnership
  • Rights and duties concerning ownership of property

In function, their domestic partnership turned into a marriage because of the above 297.5 (k)(1) changes in the Family Code statute.  To keep property separate, they would have to file a prenuptial agreement seven days before forming a domestic partnership.  This was doable for couples who registered domestic partnerships subsequent to the 2005 changes.  However, if a couple registered their partnership prior to 2005, like it or not, the courts already considered them married.  Therefore, they could not obtain a prenuptial agreement.  If they didn’t want to be considered married, they had to dissolve their domestic partnership under California statutes.  However, this resulted in division of community property as described above.  Community property division was the issue most seniors wanted to avoid in the first place and the reason they had chosen domestic partnership over marriage.

Many seniors were confused by the domestic partnership statute changes and chose to avoid the issue.  However, this left the complexities for their families to deal with after their death.  Contested wills, disputes over inheritances, and other legal ensnarement would be costly and time-consuming matters for probate courts.

If you are caught up in this domestic partnership dilemma, seek legal help from a California family law firm.

Wail Sarieh
By Wail Sarieh