The Domestic Partnership Act became effective on July 10, 2004, and was later amended by the Civil Union Act implemented on February 19, 2007. Under the original Domestic Partnership Act, same-sex couples age 18 or older and opposite-sex couples age 62 or older needed to meet the requirements of the Act to register for a Domestic Partnership.

The implementation of the Civil Union Act amended this requirement. Effective February 19, 2007, same-sex or opposite-sex couples must be age 62 or older and meet the remaining eligibility requirements of the Domestic Partnership Act to register as Domestic Partners. Domestic Partnerships registered before February 19, 2007, are still considered valid and are granted the rights and benefits of Domestic Partners.

How To Register for a Domestic Partnership in New Jersey

The New Jersey Health Vitals database describes how to legally register for a domestic partnership. In the state of New Jersey, applicants must obtain an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership. The Affidavit must be completed and signed by both applicants at the same time, in the presence of a notary. The applicants have to appear together to file the Affidavit with a Local Registrar of Vital Statistics at any municipality throughout the State and pay the fees mandated.

It is recommended to contact the Local Registrar’s Office in advance to determine if there are designated hours for accepting applications for marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership. Keep a note that Domestic Partnerships are not considered registered until the Affidavit has been filed with the Local Registrar’s Office and the Certificate of Domestic Partnership has been issued.

Each applicant must show valid identification documentation that establishes their name, age, date of birth, and proof of residency. This may be done through one or more documents issued by a government agency, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license, military identification, or state/county identification card.

Additionally, a registration or operator’s license for any motorized vehicle, such as motorcycles, boats, and motorhomes that are registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission will be accepted. A passport or county-issued ID will also establish identity. Moreover, a mortgage, lease, tax records, or utility bills will establish residency. Couples wishing to register a Domestic Partnership must be same-sex or opposite-sex couples who are both 62 years of age or older.

Couples must:

  • Share a common residence in New Jersey or any other jurisdiction provided that at least one of the applicants is a member of a New Jersey State-administered retirement system;
  • Be jointly responsible for each other’s common welfare as evidenced by joint financial arrangements or joint ownership of the real or personal property;
  • Assent to be jointly responsible for each other’s basic living expenses during the domestic partnership;
  • Not be a party to a marriage or civil union recognized by New Jersey law or a member of a domestic partnership with another individual;
  • Not be related to each other by blood or affinity up to and including the fourth degree of consanguinity (meaning, individuals who are first cousins or more distantly related);
  • Chose to share each other’s lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring, and;
  • Not have legally terminated another domestic partnership within the last 180 days (This prohibition does not apply when the previous partnership ended due to the death of the other partner)

If the residence is outside the state of New Jersey, at least one of the applicants must provide proof of membership in a New Jersey State-administered retirement system by providing one of the following documents issued by the Division of Pensions and Benefits.

For the proof of joint financial responsibility the following documents are acceptable:

  • A deed listing both people as owners of the property;
  • A mortgage agreement listing both people as responsible for the mortgage;
  • A lease listing both people as co-tenants;
  • The designation of one person as the primary beneficiary of the will of the other person;
  • The designation of one person as primary beneficiary in the other person’s insurance policy or retirement plan and;
  • Title to a motor vehicle listing both individuals as co-owners.

As mentioned earlier there is a fee to register for a domestic partnership, including a charge for each certified copy of the Certification of Domestic Partnership.

What Happens When the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership is Completed?

The registrar will stamp each completed Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with the date that it is received with the name of the registration district in which it is filed. He or she will then provide two copies of the stamped Affidavit of Domestic Partnership to the person or people filing that document. Later, the registrar will complete a Certificate of Domestic Partnership (CDP) with the domestic partners’ relevant information and the date that the domestic partnership was established.

When this is finished, the registrar will give to the domestic partners two copies of the CDP and two copies of a Notice of the Rights and Obligations of Domestic Partners. The registrar is then responsible for making certain that copies of the CDP are prepared and recorded in both the local registrar’s and the state registrar’s records.

What are the Responsibilities of Registered Domestic Partners to Each Other?

According to the Legal Services of New Jersey, Each partner must be responsible for the basic living expenses of the other while the domestic partnership is still ongoing. Domestic partners can come to an agreement on their responsibilities to each other in additional ways. To be clear about these responsibilities, they need to be written into a contract and signed by both parties.

For example, domestic partners can agree that, if they separate and terminate their partnership, they will split all of the partnership property and debts equally. Or they can decide that a partner who has been working will be responsible to pay support to a partner who remained at home taking care of children. Palimony is known as ongoing support after the termination of a domestic partnership. It may be available for ongoing support if the domestic partners include such terms in a written agreement or if such an agreement can be implied from the actions of the partners, both during and before the domestic partnership was entered into.

Registered domestic partners have the following rights:

  • The right to decide about medical treatment and to visit the hospital;
  • Each domestic partner has the right to make medical treatment decisions on behalf of the other;
  • While in a hospital, a domestic partner has visitation rights equal to those of a spouse and;
  • Upon the death of one domestic partner, the other domestic partner has the right to make a funeral or other arrangements to dispose of the remains of the deceased.

A registered domestic partner can claim the other partner as a dependent on his or her New Jersey state tax return. (This does not apply to federal tax returns). A registered domestic partner can make a gift or transfer property in life or a will to the other partner, and the partner receiving the gift or transfer does not have to pay New Jersey state estate or gift taxes.

Furthermore, keep in mind that group health insurance coverage for state employees is extended to domestic partners and the children of domestic partners. Moreover, domestic partners of state, county, and municipal employees are entitled to pension and retirement benefits. If a domestic partner passes away without a will, the domestic partner has the same rights of inheritance that a spouse has under the law.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you reside in the state of New Jersey and have issues relating to a domestic partnership, it may be useful to reach out to a local New Jersey family law attorney to assist you with the process.