Domestic Partner Benefit Plan Lawyers
Domestic Partner Benefit Plans are employee benefit plans offered to non-married couples that provide many of the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. These benefit plans are increasing in popularity. However, the laws that govern them are not uniform.
Who Qualifies As A Domestic Partner Under The Benefit Plan?
Domestic partners usually means two unrelated, unmarried adults who live in the same household. Some plans limit enrollment to same-sex partners, and some plans may make this a condition to participation in the plan. Other plans require a waiting period before a partner is eligible to enroll in the plan. The exact criteria for who qualifies varies by employer, but some common factors include:
- sharing a "committed relationship"
- not related more closely than would be allowed for a legal marriage under state law
- at least 18 years of age
- financial interdependence with the partner
What Are The Benefits Of The Plan?
The greatest benefit of the plan is health and medical insurance. Many employers fear that extending benefits to domestic partners will be too costly. However, many times this is untrue because enrollment in the plan is low and the there is less risk the plan will have to cover the high costs of pregnancy and child birth in same-sex couples. Other common benefits of the plan include:
- sick leave
- relocation expenses
- access to company property
- permission to attend company functions
Are There Any Tax Consequences To The Benefit Plan?
Federal income tax laws do not treat domestic partner benefits the same as benefits offered to married couples. Ordinarily, an employee whose partner receives domestic partner benefits must include the cost of those benefits as taxable income. There is an exception for legal dependents. In order to be a legal dependent, a partner must live in the same household as the employee and receive over half of his or her support from the employee.
Should I Consult An Attorney About Domestic Partner Benefit Plans?
Many employers have began offering benefit plans to domestic partners. As they grow in popularity, the rules will change and your rights will be effected. An attorney can help explain the rights and benefits for both you and your partner and ensure you are being treated fairly.
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Last Modified: 02-24-2011 03:30 PM PST
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