California law provides for the creation and registration of domestic partnerships, as long as statutory requirements are met. These relationships resemble marriages in many ways, including the issues and feelings that arise when such a relationship is terminated. In general, domestic partners have the same State rights that married people have, but they do not have the same Federal rights. There are important differences in the areas of support, property division, tax consequences and procedural requirements that need to be considered when planning for how the case will be handled. For instance, domestic partners may not file joint Federal tax returns, although they may now file joint State tax returns. The partner support calculations, which are analogous to spousal support calculations for divorcing couples, presume that unless the parties are filing joint tax returns, support will be deductible to the paying party and taxable to the receiving party. However, support for a domestic partner is not deductible on either State or Federal tax returns, but it is likely to be taxable to the receiving party. This generally requires an adjustment in the calculations. Problems with division of retirement benefits can also arise in domestic partner dissolution cases, as many of the retirement plan provisions are governed by Federal law, which does not recognize domestic partnership rights. When a client consults me regarding a dissolution of domestic partnership case, a full inquiry is made as to all issues that need to be resolved, including those such as custody that will be the same in domestic partnership and marriage cases, and those that will be different in domestic partnership cases, such as tax consequences. I have represented may clients from the LGBT community in these contexts.
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