A domestic partnership is a committed relationship between two individuals who reside together but are not married. The majority of states recognize this type of relationship. The individuals may be able to apply to register their relationship and receive certain government benefits.

In a domestic partnership, the couple shares their finances. They can also raise children together as unmarried parents.

Domestic partnerships were originally available to same- sex couples that were prohibited from getting married. However, it now extends to all types of couples.

There are no federal guidelines regarding the definition of a domestic partnership. Each state within the United States defines these types of relationships differently. Nevada began recognizing domestic partnerships for all couples beginning in October of 2009.

The main purpose of the law was to permit same-sex couples to enter into a civil contract which would protect their rights as a couple. There is no requirement for a ceremony in order to enter into this type of contract.

In order to enter into a domestic partnership in Nevada, the parties must fulfill certain requirements, including:

  • Each individual must be at least 18 years of age;
  • Both parties must be competent to consent to enter into a contract;
  • The individuals must share a common residence;
  • The individuals must not be related by blood in any manner which would prevent them from being legally married to each other in Nevada; and
  • Neither party is permitted to be married or in a domestic partnership with another individual.

A couple may formalize their domestic partnership by registering with their employer, local or government, or the state in which they reside. Both domestic partnership applicants must be 18 years of age, unmarried, and competent to enter into a contract, as noted above. The individuals cannot be in another domestic partnership and must be in a committed relationship for at least 6 months.

Individuals begin the registration process by filing applications with the court and signing them in the presence of witnesses. In addition, the individuals will both need to provide proper identification along with any necessary fees in order to complete the application process.

The following is a list of documents which will be helpful when applying for a domestic partnership relationship:

  • Proper identification, which may include a driver’s license or passport;
    • It is important to note that other documents may be considered proper identification. An individual should check their state’s requirements; and
  • A current lease, mortgage, or rental agreement which names both applications as occupants of the residence.

If a couple holds themselves out as being in a domestic relationship, but they do not formally register with the court, they may not be able to receive the same benefits as a couple that is formally registered with the court.

What are the Benefits of a Domestic Partnership?

Although the individuals in a domestic partnership do not enjoy the same benefits as a married couple, some states do permit some benefits, which may include:

  • Health, dental and vision insurance;
  • Death benefits and inheritance rights;
  • Visitation rights in jails and hospitals;
  • The authority to make financial and medical decisions for their partner;
  • Accident and life insurance;
  • Housing rights; and
  • Parental leave and adoption rights.

In some cases, an employer may still offer these types of benefits even if the state does not recognize the domestic partnership relationship.

How Does the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage Affect Partnerships?

In 2015, same-sex marraige was legalized in the United States. This means that, in Nevada, all couples may choose between a domestic partnership and a marriage.

Individuals in a domestic partnership may get married to one another without terminating their partnership. The domestic partnership will continue to exist in addition to the marriage. However, if a married couple no longer desires to also be in a domestic partnership, they may terminate the domestic partnership without it having an effect on their marriage.

Which States Recognize Domestic Partnerships?

The laws regarding domestic partnership regulations change frequently. Therefore, it is important to consult with a family attorney on the current status of this type of relationship in the individual’s state.

The following states are states which recognize domestic partnership relationships:

  • California;
  • Connecticut;
  • District of Columbia (D.C.);
  • Nevada;
  • New Jersey;
  • Oregon;
  • Washington;
  • Vermont;
  • Wisconsin;
  • Maine;
  • Hawaii; and
  • Colorado.

It is important to note that there are some states that may only allow certain benefits in specific parts of the state. It is important to consult the exact guidelines in an individual’s state.

What Rights Are Associated with Domestic Partnerships in Nevada?

There are certain rights that are associated with domestic partnerships. These include:

  • The right to inherit the partner’s property through intestacy;
  • The right to transfer certain pieces of property to the individual’s partner without paying taxes;
  • The right to sue for the wrongful death of a partner; and
  • Benefits through Nevada’s community property laws.

It is important to note, however, that in Nevada, domestic partnerships do not confer all of the rights and responsibilities which married couples enjoy. Entering into a domestic partnership can limit federal benefits. In addition, the partnership may not be recognized in other states or countries.

How is a Domestic Partnership Terminated?

Either one of the parties or both of the parties can apply for a termination of the domestic partnership relationship. After filing for termination, there is a waiting period of six months prior to the domestic partnership terminating. During this time, the benefits for the partners will still continue.

The partner who applied for the termination may apply to withdraw it if they desire to do so. However, once the six month waiting period expires, the domestic partners will be required to reapply for a new domestic partnership following the termination of the previous one.

In some cases, automatic termination of the domestic partnership may occur. Reasons for this may include:

  • The death of one of the partners;
  • Both partners marry each other;
  • One partner marries another individual;
  • One partner abandons the relationship; or
  • One partner abandons the mutual residence.

How Does a Domestic Partnership Compare with a Marriage?

The benefits for a domestic partnership and a marriage vary by state. The right to enter into a marriage is a right that all individuals have in every state in the United States. However, as noted above, domestic partnership relationships are not recognized in all states.

A marriage entails more protections and benefits as compared to a domestic partnership. Domestic partnership relationships are not considered families by law.

Married couples are entitled to inherit assets automatically upon the death of their spouse, but this is not the same for domestic partners. A married couple may file their tax returns jointly. In addition, married couples have the benefits of Social Security and life insurance.

Whether an individual chooses to be in a domestic partnership or a marriage may depend on various emotional and relationship factors. Therefore, if an individual is considering both a domestic partnership and a marriage as an option, it will be helpful to have an understanding of the rights and benefits that are included with both kinds of relationships.

Do I Need a Nevada Attorney?

It is essential to have a Nevada family attorney assist you with any domestic partnership issues in Nevada. As noted above, there are differences between marriages and domestic partnerships under Nevada laws. Your attorney can advise you regarding these differences and assist you in understanding your rights as a domestic partner.