San Francisco Family Law Firm Outlines How the Domestic Partnership Equality Act Adds to Domestic Partnership Rights

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San Francisco family law firm Heath-Newton, LLP explains the new domestic partnership rights California will enact next month.

Heath-Newton, LLP is a San Francisco family law practice that focuses on families.

Many people hoping to marry their same-sex partner go to one of the few places allowing it, but then are shocked to see that they cannot get divorced in their home state when the marriage dissolves

While California’s domestic partnership laws grant certain rights to same-sex couples, they do not provide all of the rights of marriage. On October 9, 2011, the legislature and Governor Brown corrected some of that inequity by passing the Domestic Partnership Equality Act. Effective in January, the law will provide for several rights already existing in marriage. Erik Newton, a partner at the San Francisco family law firm Heath-Newton, outlines some of the key provisions of the act.

First, and arguably most importantly, the law will allow same-sex couples married in California but living in states that do not recognize their marriage, to get divorced in California. Previously, these couples were stuck in limbo—unable to get divorced, and having a marriage only recognized in certain states. This provision of the law corrects a serious conundrum for same-sex couples. The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages consummated in another state.

“Many people hoping to marry their same-sex partner go to one of the few places allowing it, but then are shocked to see that they cannot get divorced in their home state when the marriage dissolves. Same-sex marriage then becomes a prison instead of a liberating institution,” explains Newton. Only six states, Washington D.C. and two tribal nations have marriage equality. 30 states ban same-sex marriage by constitutional amendment and 11 states ban it by statute alone.

This provision of the Domestic Partnership Equality Act immediately applies to marriages entered into before Proposition 8 passed and will apply to future marriages if Proposition 8 is ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

Second, under the new law, couples will no longer have to share a common residence in order to qualify as domestic partners. This is already the case with marriages.

Third, the law further allows people under the age of 18 to become domestic partners, though they would need a court order and the consent of their parent or guardian.

Finally, The Domestic Partnership Equality Act allows domestic partners to enter into a confidential domestic partnership. The paperwork they file with the Secretary of State would remain sealed unless opened by Court order. This advancement brings domestic partnership closer in alignment with marriage, which allows for confidential marriages.

Newton notes the domestic partnership laws are complex and still differ significantly from marriage. Additionally, because federal policy differs from state policy, domestic partners also have distinct challenges dealing with the federal government.

“Many couples desiring to enter into a domestic partnership attempt to smooth out the wrinkles in domestic partnership with a prenuptial agreement,” suggests Newton. “A couple wanting to enter into a domestic partnership is wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney.”

For more information about provisions of the Domestic Partnership Equality Act, or any other family law matter, please contact San Francisco family law attorneys Heath-Newton, LLP by calling (415) 992-5038, visit their website http://www.heathnewton.com, or stop by their office located at 240 Stockton Street, Suite 300 in San Francisco, California.

About Heath-Newton, LLP
Heath-Newton, LLP is a San Francisco family law practice focused on families. These San Francisco divorce attorneys pride themselves on working with clients from all backgrounds and lifestyles. Heath-Newton, LLP specializes in premarital agreements (prenups), same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships, divorce, child support, spousal support, adoption, and child custody in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

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Erik W. Newton
Heath-Newton LLP
(415) 992-5038
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