Although California no longer awards marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the state officially recognizes these pairings by allowing same-sex couples to register a declaration of domestic partnership with the California secretary of state. A same-sex couple living in a registered domestic partnership is entitled to many of the same benefits of marriage and divorce as a married, heterosexual couple -- including alimony after the couple breaks up.
Alimony, often referred to as “spousal support,” is a set amount that one party must pay to the other following a legal separation or divorce. Participants in a registered domestic partnership in California who choose to terminate their arrangement have the same legal right to request alimony as a divorcing couple. You can request alimony only when your domestic partnership is dissolved. Simply entering into the partnership does not make you eligible for support payments.
Qualifying for Support
Terminating a domestic partnership does not automatically entitle you to receive alimony. The judge will consider several factors to determine whether or not to award you “partner support.” Some of the factors the judge may consider include: how long the partnership was in effect, your education level and earning capacity, whether or not you have children to support and the standard of living you enjoyed while the domestic partnership was still in effect.
Duration of Payments
Support payments are not designed to continue indefinitely. Although the amount of time your former partner must pay you alimony after your partnership ends is at the court's discretion, the goal of support payments is to help the party receiving the payments to become self-sufficient within a reasonable amount of time.
While this time frame may vary depending on your circumstances, the California State Code notes that a reasonable amount of time is generally one-half the length of the marriage or partnership. Thus, if you and your former partner dissolved your registered domestic partnership after four years and the court grants you support payments, those support payments will continue, on average, for no more than two years.
After the termination of a marriage, the person paying alimony can deduct the alimony payments from his taxes, while the recipient of those payments must claim them on her taxes. The same is not necessarily true when you receive support payments following the dissolution of a registered domestic partnership. Federal tax laws do not recognize domestic partnerships for taxation purposes, and neither does California's state tax laws.
If you are paying or receiving support payments after terminating your registered domestic partnership, it is important that you meet with an accountant or attorney who can help you properly include the support payments when filing your state and federal taxes.
- California Secretary of State Debra Bowen: Domestic Partners Registry
- State of California Franchise Tax Board: Alimony -- Frequently Asked Questions
- County of Contra Costa Virtual Self-Help Law Center: Spousal or Partner Support – What Is It?
- Official California Legislative Information: California State Code Family Code – Section 4320-4326
- California Courts: Spousal/Partner Support
- State of California Franchise Tax Board: What if I'm a Domestic Partner?
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