While the discussion of divorce and dissolution mediation in this site includes dissolution of registered domestic partnerships, there are significant legal and cultural differences between dissolution of heterosexual marriages and dissolution of same sex domestic partnerships. The language and intention of California state law may have been to provide legal parity, but federal law, including tax law, does not recognize same sex domestic partnerships. As a result, many standard benefits and assumptions applicable to divorcing heterosexual couples are not available to same sex couples dissolving a domestic partnership. For example, spouses paying spousal maintenance may deduct the amount of maintenance from their taxable income, shifting the tax burden to the payee spouse with less income and a lower tax rate. Same sex payors do not receive the deduction. Differences between both the legal and cultural context of divorces produce additional complexities for same sex partners dissolving their legal relationship. More legal advice, more tax advice and more creativity and exploration of underlying perspectives of fairness may be required. Mediation can be an ideal forum to work out those complexities as long as partners receive appropriate counsel.
Because of the legal and cultural differences between heterosexual and same sex couples, same sex couples may want to work out contractual agreements to govern their relationship in addition to or instead of registering as a domestic partnership.