California Relaxes Registration Requirements for Opposite-Sex Domestic Partners

September 17th, 2019

Effective January 1, 2020, California eliminates the requirement that at least one member of an opposite-sex couple be at least age 62 and eligible for Social Security benefits in order for the couple to register as domestic partners with the state of California. For employers who sponsor fully-insured benefit plans, this may result in more employees enrolling a registered domestic partner in an employer-sponsored health plan.

Background

Under California law, domestic partners who are registered with the state’s domestic partner registry are generally afforded the same rights, protections, and benefits as are granted to legal spouses. If an insured group health plan offers coverage to legal spouses of employees residing in California, the plan is required to also offer coverage to the registered domestic partners of employees in California. Self-insured plans are not required to treat registered domestic partners the same as legal spouses in California for plan eligibility purposes. However, an employer with a self-insured plan may voluntarily choose to extend coverage to domestic partners; either requiring a couple be registered to be eligible, or crafting its own domestic partner eligibility criteria.

Under current law, in order to be registered domestic partners, a couple must file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State, which attests that the couple meets certain criteria at the time of filing. One requirement is that one or both members of an opposite-sex couple must be (1) eligible for Social Security benefits, and (2) at least age 62.

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