California Domestic Partner Rights & Responsibilities Act (CDPRRA)
Effective January 1, 2005, California became one of a few, but growing number of, states to legalize same sex relationships. Under the California Domestic Partner Rights & Responsibilities Act ("CDPRRA"), same sex couples may register as "domestic partners". The California Legislature reserved the term "marriage" to a legally binding relationship between a man and a woman.
When a couple registers as "domestic partners" their relationship is largely governed by the California Family Code and all of its community property, fiduciary duty, domestic violence, child custody and visitation, child and spousal support provisions apply equally.
Under the CDPRRA, heterosexual couples may also register as domestic partners.
While CDPRRA legally recognizes same sex relationships, it does not affect federal law. That is to say, federal taxes, entitlement programs, and other federally governed programs are not affected by CDPRRA. This state of affairs presents some very real challenges for same sex couples.
It will take some time before the effects of CDPRRA are fully realized. In the meantime, much confusion will ensue while conflicts between laws are litigated, same sex couples become knowledgeable about their rights and responsibilities under CDPRRA, and society in general adjusts.
CDPRRA is the most sweeping change to happen to family law in many years and it will undoubtedly be the focus of much family law litigation for years to come.