The California Court of Appeal ruled that a gay Orange County man who mistakenly thought his ex-partner had registered their domestic partnership is entitled to the same protectionscovering heterosexual spouses who discover their marriage isn’t valid.
Darrin Ellis and David Arriaga were in a committed relationship for more than five years, and in 2003 met with their attorney to draft estate planning documents and a declaration of domestic partnership. When Ellis tried to dissolve their relationship three years later, Arriaga requested that the court dismiss the case, saying their relationship wasn’t validly registered. Ellis believed his domestic partnership was registered with the state, only to discover upon their separation that his partner never mailed the form.
Lambda Legal argued that Ellis should have the same recourse available to heterosexuals who honestly believe they were validly married, but later discover they were not. This protection allows good faith “putative spouses” to fairly divide property through family court, rather than being treated as legal strangers.