California has been at the vanguard of domestic partnership laws designed to extend to same-sex couples similar rights and responsibilities currently enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. These are rights essential to living life as a couple and family, such as the ability to share healthcare and retirement benefits, make crucial medical decisions, open joint checking accounts, inherit property and hold joint child custody.
The California domestic partner law passed in January of 2005, which confirms these rights, is open to interpretation, however, and may be in conflict with other states’ and some federal laws. How these conflicts will ultimately be resolved and how that resolution will affect same-sex civil unions in California is unclear.
California domestic partner law is not limited to same-sex couples. It is also available to heterosexual couples where at least one partner is over the age of 62. Unmarried seniors wishing to register as domestic partners should consider the effect on existing written agreements between them, which could be invalidated by registration.
For clients interested in a registered domestic partnership, Mr. Eisfelder focuses on advising clients of the associated benefits, pitfalls and areas of uncertainty. These may include issues such as taxation, custody of minor children and rights to employment benefits or inheritance.