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Domestic Partnership Dissolution
In order to understand the nature and effect of terminating a registered domestic partnership, the following explains some key terms. Additionally, both partners should understand that as a couple in a registered domestic partnership, there are certain things that the partners own together and there may be certain debts that the partners owe together.
Termination of a Domestic Partnership
The termination of a registered domestic partnership ends the registered domestic partnership and returns the partners to the status of un-partnered persons. The partners no longer will have the rights, protections and benefits or obligations and responsibilities under the law as registered domestic partners. The process of termination usually will divide all the community property and community obligations of the partners. Once effective, the termination may not be undone except in limited circumstances by order of a California Superior Court. Termination of a domestic partnership does not dissolve a marriage.
Date of Separation
The date of separation is the date one of the partners tells the other partner that they want to terminate the domestic partnership and there is no chance of continuing the partnership. In most cases, it is the date the partners stop living together as a couple. However, if there are questions about the separation date, an attorney should be consulted.
Community property is everything that the partners have acquired together after registering their domestic partnership. In most cases, that includes anything that either partner earned and anything that either partner bought with those earnings after the date the domestic partnership was registered but before the date of separation. This may not be the case if a written property settlement agreement was made between the partners regarding rights to partnership property. In that situation, an attorney should be consulted regarding the partners’ respective rights to community property.
Separate property generally is everything that partners owned prior to registering their domestic partnership and any interest or other income received from that separate property after registering the domestic partnership and before the separation date. In most cases, anything earned or received after the date of separation and anything received by gift or inheritance at any time is also separate property.
Fair Market Value
Except for bank accounts and cash, which are valued at their actual dollar amount, the value of community property is determined by adding together the fair market value of possessions that are community property. Fair market value is an estimate of the amount of money that could be obtained if those items were sold to a stranger at a flea market, garage sale, on the Internet, or in the newspaper. It does not mean what was paid for those items originally or how much it would cost to replace those items now. One way of estimating the fair market value is to see what similar items are advertised for in the newspaper want ads or online auction companies. The same method is used to determine the value of separate property.
Community obligations are the debts that the partners incurred after registering the domestic partnership and before the separation date. In most cases, this includes anything still owed on any debts either of you took on after the date you registered as domestic partners but before the date of separation. A debt is usually still a community obligation even when only one partner’s name is on the loan.
Property Settlement Agreement
A property settlement agreement is an agreement in writing, signed by both partners, explaining how community property will be divided upon termination of the domestic partnership and how much each partner will pay on the community obligations.
Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership
A Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership is the formal request by one partner to a California Superior Court for the court to dissolve the domestic partnership. It is similar to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (a divorce), but it does not dissolve a marriage. See below if the partners also are married to one another and want to dissolve the marriage.
Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership and Marriage
A Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership and Marriage is the formal request by one partner/spouse to a California Superior Court for the court to dissolve both the domestic partnership and the marriage during the same proceeding.
The above information is provided by the California Secretary of State. Their publication “Terminating a California Registered Domestic Partnership” brochure (revised February 13, 2015) can be very helpful in explaining the termination process.
The Mediation Law Offices of Chandra Nelson-Robak provides mediation services to same-sex couples and Registered Domestic Partners. Some Domestic Partners may qualify for a Summary Dissolution. Please visit this link (http://www.courts.ca.gov/1242.htm) to the California Courts to find further information. If you do not qualify for a Summary Dissolution or require the help of a mediation attorney to navigate the process, please contact our office.