Eyewitness News Orange County Bureau Chief Eileen Frere is live at the courthouse in Santa Ana with reaction -- and what's next.
Ron Garber says he knew his ex-wife was living with another woman and he was OK with that. What he says he was not OK was when he learned they had registered as domestic partners. He says he felt that meant marriage and he should not have to pay spousal support.
Ron Garber says he didn't mind signing an agreement to pay $1,250 a month in spousal support for five years, until he learned what his ex-wife Melinda and her new partner had done. They had registered with the state as domestic partners.
"Their union is absolutely the same as a marriage," says Garber.
Under California law, alimony ends when the former spouse remarries, unless it's specified in an agreement. Garber took it to court, saying he should no longer have to pay spousal report to his former wife of 18 years. After two years in court, a judge ruled registered partnership is not marriage, but cohabitation.
"That became very, very upsetting because I felt like I was behind the eight-ball," says Garber.
The case shows loopholes between the legal status of domestic partners and married couples. The California Supreme Court is looking at the issue as it decides whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
Garber's ex-wife and mother of his two teenage children, Melinda Kirkwood, would not go on camera, but she says Garber knew she was living with her partner before they reached a settlement.
"We signed a settlement agreement and waived our right to disclosure, so I wasn't required to tell him, just as he wasn't required to tell me about his remarriage."
Kirkwood says the agreement was binding, whether she was in a domestic partnership or married to a man. Garber says this is not about being gay or lesbian. It's about fairness.
"Couples that have this kind of a domestic-partnership union, they are married and they need to be dealt with in terms of the rights and responsibilities need to be the same," says Garber.
And Ron Garber says he plans to appeal the case.
Our viewers are sharing their opinions on this controversial case. In our exclusive Eyewitness News Poll, we asked Southern Californians, "Do you think a person should be able to continue to collect alimony from an ex-husband or ex-wife if they started a domestic partnership with another person?"
Should someone in a domestic partnership continue to collect alimony? 21% said they Should 70% said they Should Not 9% Not Sure