Domestic Partnership Attorney

Leigh A. Kretzschmar has been representing domestic partners for since 1996, long before the legal community recognized same-gender relationships.  Leigh A. Kretzschmar has extensive experience, and understands the needs, of domestic partners. It is often forgotten that registration is also available to opposite-gender couples, both of whom who are at least 62 years old.

Before registering as a domestic partner, it is critical to consider whether this is right for you and your partner.

Should I register? The decision to register as domestic partners is a legal and emotional decision that deserves serious consideration. An informed decision can best be made only after you become aware of your rights and responsibilities afforded under California law.

History of Registration in California

The first domestic partner registration law was enacted by the State of California in 1999. These registrations carried just a few rights, albeit important ones: hospital visitation privileges (equal to those enjoyed by marital couples and their families) and health benefits for some state employees. In 2001 and 2002, registrants were granted additional rights, including the right to sue for wrongful death, sick leave for an ill partner or the partner’s child, authority to make medical decision, unemployment benefits upon forced relocation of the couple due to the partner’s job, authority to use stepparent adoption to adopt a partner’s child, intestate succession rights, paid family leave due to illness of a spouse/partner.

A radical expansion of domestic partner rights was enacted through AB205, the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003. This legislation granted to registered domestic partners hundreds of rights and obligations, already available to married couples, including presumed parentage, community property rights and the responsibility for financial support of one another.

Ultimately, it is the primary responsibility of each partner in a committed relationship to consider and be informed about the impact this legal partnership will have on family matters such parenthood, insurance, finances/property ownership, decision making on behalf of a partner, spousal/partner support and other benefits. Some of the rights impacted by registration are:

  • Parentage
  • Insurance
  • Finances – access to financial accounts, transfers from one partner to the other
  • Property Ownership
  • Health care decision-making
  • Spousal/Partner Support

Parentage

A child born to, or adopted by, registered domestic partners will be presumed to be the lawful child of both partners. Both partners may be named on the birth certificate at the time of birth. Unfortunately, being named on a birth certificate does not in itself create parental rights.  It is therefore recommended that all registered couples obtain a judgment of parental rights from a California court. Gay men using a surrogate must go to Family Court to obtain a Judgment Establishing Parental Rights. Lesbians may obtain a Family Court Judgment or proceed with a step-parent adoption.

Insurance

Under California law, employers who provide health benefits to spouses of a married employee must provide the same coverage to the partner of an employee who is registered as a domestic partner. This law applies to employers who are not self-insured. In addition, this coverage must be extended for children of the domestic partners, even when the insured partner is not the biological parent.

Finances and Property Ownership

Same-gender couples often do not understand the “community property” principles which arise from registration and its impact on assets and obligations acquired during the period of registration. Registered domestic partners should develop an understanding about community property rules, just as straight couples have over the years.

For example, without registration or marriage, the wages and earnings of a partner deposited into his/her own bank account was separate property. Anything purchased with this separate property was also that partner’s sole property. After registration, however, wages and earnings of one registered domestic partner and any asset(s) purchased with those earnings are considered “community property.”

The same basic principles hold true for obligations: a debt of one partner incurred before the date of registration will remain that partner’s obligation. However, a debt incurred in one partner’s name after the date of registration is presumed to be a community debt, provided it was incurred for the benefit of the partnership.

Decision-Making on Behalf of Your Partner

Some of the most important rights associated with domestic partner registration involve the personal decisions made on behalf of a partner in life and after death. Once registered, a partner is automatically entitled to make medical, legal and financial decisions for an incapacitated partner. Registered partners are also authorized to make arrangements for a partner’s funeral and disposition of remains.

Spousal/Partner Support

Just as married spouses are obligated to take care of each other’s basic needs after the date of separation, registered domestic partners have the same responsibility. In some cases, this duty may last for a period of time after the couples separate and end the domestic partner registration.
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Other Benefits

Registered partners are eligible for certain other benefits in California such as unemployment insurance, inheritance upon the death of a partner without a will, paid sick leave for serious illness of a partner or partner’s child, and death benefits for surviving partners of firefighters and police.

What Leigh A. Kretzschmar Can Do For You

In addition to working with straight and gay couples going through separation or divorce, Leigh A. Kretzschmar works with many who are planning to start or extend their families through co-parenting, pregnancy, artificial insemination, surrogacy or adoption.

Prior to the passage of laws establishing rights for registered domestic partners, Leigh A. Kretzschmar successfully argued, at the trial court level, several novel parenting theories on behalf of the non-biological partner of the birth mother. She has been an educator for judges, lawyers and the public on the issues of parental rights (before and after registration). Leigh A. Kretzschmar is also active in the LGBT community outside of her law practice and was a founding board member of Family Matters, San Diego’s LGBT parenting support organization. While Leigh A. Kretzschmar is dedicated to protecting the legal rights of her LGBT clients, her greatest passion in life is being the parent of her two boys.

Regardless your legal matter, Leigh A. Kretzschmar has vast knowledge and invaluable experience representing members of the LGBT community.

Contact Leigh A. Kretzschmar by calling (619) 231-9323 or completing the Contact Form.

In-person Appointments:  clients located within in San Diego, CA, La Mesa,CA, National City, CA, Chula Vista, CA, El Cajon, CA, Tierrasanta, CA, Santee, CA, Ramona, CA and surrounding areas.

Telephone appointments:  clients outside of the County of San Diego, California.