Domestic Partnerships and Maintenance Payments

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What are Domestic Partnerships?

Many state and local governments recognize domestic partnerships.  In such jurisdictions, couples who are in a “committed relationship” to one another may receive a similar status to that of a married couple.  Persons in a domestic partnership may then be eligible for certain benefits and rights normally reserved for a married couple.

Filing for domestic partnership can involve a number of steps to prove that the partners in a committed relationship with one another.  Similarly, terminating a domestic partnership involves a filing process similar to that of divorce.  On the other hand, terminating the domestic partnership may have different results with regards to central issues such as property distribution and support payments.

Am I Entitled to Maintenance Payments if our Domestic Partnership is Dissolved?

Maintenance payments are monetary contributions that one partner makes to the other in order to provide financial support after a relationship has been terminated or dissolved. 

In a marriage and divorce context, maintenance is also known as spousal support or alimony.  When a married couple divorces, a court will almost always consider whether to award maintenance payments to one party.

However, when a domestic partnership is terminated, maintenance payments are not always automatically considered.  Each state may have different laws regarding maintenance payments upon termination of a domestic partnership. 

If the state does award maintenance payments in such situations, a court will usually consider the following factors:

For example, if the domestic partnership lasted for several years or decades, the court is more likely to treat the relationship as if it were a marriage.  If one spouse is severely in need, they will be more likely to issue a maintenance award.  But if the domestic partnership was very brief, a maintenance award might not be considered.

It may happen that a couple is not legally recognized as a domestic partnership.  For example, the couple may have failed to file for domestic partner status.  Also, many states do not officially recognize domestic partnerships.  In such cases, it is very likely that the parties will not be considered for maintenance payments.

Does Child Support Apply in a Domestic Partnership Setting?

Courts are much more likely to issue a child support order compared to a maintenance payment award.  This is because non-married parents have the same obligations to their children as a married or divorced parent.  Child support orders are always enforced with the child’s best interests in mind, and not the interests of the parents. 

In other words, child support payments will definitely be considered upon termination of a domestic partnership that involves children.  When calculating a child support award during a termination of a domestic partnership, the court may consider the following factors:

Again, the more the domestic partnership resembles a marriage, the more likely it is that a court will cover matters like maintenance and child support payments.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Domestic Partnerships and Maintenance Payments?

The relationship between domestic partnership and maintenance payments can sometimes be complex.  Each state may have different laws regarding whether maintenance payments are available upon dissolution of a domestic partnership.  If you have a question or legal dispute regarding these issues, you may wish to speak with a family lawyer for advice.  Your attorney can represent you in court if you need to obtain a maintenance order. 

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Last Modified: 09-15-2011 03:33 PM PDT

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