December 18, 2023 In Divorce

Community Property: Domestic partnership vs. Divorce

In California, understanding the nuances of property rights in both domestic partnerships and marriages is crucial, especially considering the state’s community property laws. These laws play a significant role in determining how property is divided in the event of a dissolution or divorce. This informational guide aims to clarify how community property applies to domestic partnerships compared to marriages.

Community Property in Domestic Partnerships

  1. Equal Ownership: In domestic partnerships, California law treats assets and debts acquired during the partnership similarly to those in a marriage. This means that any income earned or property bought by either partner during the domestic partnership is generally considered community property and owned equally by both.
  2. Registered Domestic Partnerships: It’s important to note that these rules apply to legally registered domestic partnerships. Couples in such partnerships have rights and responsibilities similar to those of married couples under California law.
  3. Division of Property: In the dissolution of a domestic partnership, community property is divided equally, just as it would be in a divorce.
  4. Exceptions and Separate Property: Property that either partner owned before entering into the partnership, as well as gifts or inheritances received by one partner, are typically considered separate property and not subject to division.

Community Property in Marriage

  1. Scope of Community Property: As in domestic partnerships, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property and are equally owned by both spouses.
  2. Marital Agreement: Couples can alter the standard community property rules through prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, determining different terms for their property division.
  3. Dissolution or Divorce: Upon divorce, the community property is divided equally between the spouses, unless agreed otherwise.
  4. Debts: Debts incurred during the marriage are generally considered community debts and are shared by both spouses.

Differences Between Domestic Partnerships and Marriage

  1. Federal Recognition: While California recognizes domestic partnerships similarly to marriages, the federal government does not always extend the same recognition to domestic partnerships. This difference can affect federal taxes and benefits.
  2. Benefits and Protections: There are some variations in benefits and protections between domestic partnerships and marriages, particularly regarding federal benefits, tax implications, and recognition in other states.
  3. Dissolution Process: The process of dissolving a domestic partnership can be different from divorce, particularly if federal matters are involved.
  4. Eligibility: Domestic partnerships in California are available to same-sex couples and to opposite-sex couples where at least one partner is over the age of 62.


Understanding how community property laws apply to your relationship, whether you are in a domestic partnership or married, is vital for protecting your rights and interests. Given the complexities and nuances of California law, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional for personalized advice and guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

Remember, this flyer provides an overview and is not a substitute for professional legal advice. If you have specific questions or need assistance with matters related to community property, domestic partnerships, or marriage in California, please reach out to a qualified attorney.

For legal representation or guidance, feel free to contact The Mines Law Firm. We are committed to providing professional legal support tailored to your unique needs.


Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific legal guidance on your case, please contact The Mines Law Firm for representation.