CIVIL UNIONS, SAME SEX MARRIAGE, AND COMMON LAW MARRIAGE
In California, a civil union is called a “domestic partnership.” It is a legal union between two people (at one time reserved for only same-sex couples) recognized and governed by the state of California. Marriage at one time was reserved for two people of the opposite sex. Now, California recognizes and same-sex marriage, and if you are a same-sex couple getting married you are entitled to all the same rights and benefits as opposite sex couples that get married.
Married couples are able to file joint federal taxes, transfer assets to his or her spouse without tax penalties, and offer health insurance for other spouse if employed at a company outside California. Domestic partnerships do not have these same benefits. Now, domestic partners who want the full benefits of marriage on a federal level may get married.
Dissolution of a domestic partnership can be different than dissolution of a marriage. To end a domestic partnership usually depends on whom you registered with, whether it is the county or city governments, or with private employers to obtain health or other benefits. Depending on that, either you have to go to the department or agency that you registered with and fill out a termination form, or you may have to go to court to obtain a judgment of dissolution, just as you would to terminate a legal marriage.
California does not recognize common-law marriage. Common law marriage refers to a type of marriage that is not created through the laws on marriage, but rather by the conduct of the parties. Conduct such as cohabiting and acknowledging each other has husband and wife. In California, you must get a marriage license and enter into a legal marriage in order to be considered married.