New Jersey Registered Domestic Partnership FAQs

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 What Is a Domestic Partnership?

In legal terms, a domestic partnership is a committed relationship between two people that live together, but are not married. In a domestic partnership, two parties share a residence, finances, and may even raise children together as unmarried parents.

Historically, domestic partnerships were intended to be utilized by same-sex couples who were legally prohibited from marriage. However, with recent legislation changes, domestic partnership is available to many different types of couples who wish to have some of the legal benefits of marriage, without actually being married.

Because there are no federally mandated guidelines in terms of what a domestic partnership is, each state is responsible for defining these relationships in their own way. As such, the laws concerning domestic partnerships will vary from state to state. Additionally, the benefits offered to domestic partners will differ from state to state.

Examples of common benefits that states offer to domestic partnerships include, but may not be limited to:

  • Health, dental, and vision insurance;
  • Death benefits, including inheritance rights;
  • Visitation rights, such as visitation in a federal or state facility (hospital, jail, etc.);
  • The authority to make medical and financial decisions on behalf of their domestic partner;
  • Accident and life insurance;
  • Housing rights; and
  • Parental leave and adoption rights.

Does New Jersey Recognize Domestic Partnerships?

In short, yes, New Jersey is one of the states that recognize domestic partnerships in some capacity. Domestic partners living in New Jersey can apply to register their relationship with the state in order to receive certain government benefits, such as those listed above.

However, in order for a couple’s domestic partnership to be recognized, they must first file an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with their local Registrar of Vital Statistics and pay the required application fee.

The list of other states that recognize domestic partnership relationships in some capacity include:

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

How To Register for a Domestic Partnership in New Jersey?

As mentioned above, in order for domestic partners to obtain the benefits of a domestic partnership, they must first register their domestic partnership. The New Jersey Health Vitals database outlines the process for registering for a domestic partnership.

First, applicants must obtain and complete an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership. Importantly, the affidavit must be signed and notarized by both parties. Next, both applicants must appear together to file the affidavit with their local Registrar of Vital Statistics at any municipality throughout the State.

At the Registrar, each applicant must show a valid identification document that establishes their name, age, date of birth, and proof of residency. Any document issued by a government agency, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate, driver’s license, military identification, or state/county identification card will generally suffice.

Finally, the application fee must be paid. It is important to 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.

In order to undergo the registration process, the domestic partners will need to be eligible for a domestic partnership in New Jersey. The requirements for domestic partners to register a domestic partnership include:

  • Both partners must be over 62 years old;
  • Both partners must share a common residence in New Jersey
    • One exception is that partners may share a common residence in another state, if at least one applicant is a member of a retirement system administered by New Jersey;
  • Neither partner may be part of a marriage, civil union, or marriage to someone else;
  • Both partners must be jointly responsible for each other’s welfare and basic living expenses as evidenced by joint financial arrangements or joint ownership of the real or personal property;
  • Neither partner can be related to the other by blood or affinity up to and including the fourth degree of consanguinity;
  • Both partners must be in a committed relationship of mutual caring; and
  • Neither partner can have legally terminated a domestic partnership within the past 180 days, excluding cases where a previous domestic partner has died.

In regards to the proof of joint financial responsibility requirement above, the following documents are acceptable to prove that requirement:

  • A deed listing both partners as owners of the property;
  • A mortgage agreement that lists both partners as responsible for the mortgage;
  • A lease that lists both partners as co-tenants;
  • The designation of one partner as the primary beneficiary in the will of the other partner;
  • The designation of one partner as primary beneficiary in the other partner’s life insurance policy or retirement plan; and/or
  • A title to a motor vehicle that lists both partners as co-owners.

If domestic partners fail to meet any of the above requirements, then they may not be allowed to register their domestic partnership in New Jersey. Further, if the partners fail to complete the registration and pay the fee, then their domestic partnership may not be recognized.

What Happens When the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership is Completed?

Once an affidavit of domestic partnership has been 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 was filed.

Then, the Registrar’s office will provide two copies of the stamped Affidavit of Domestic Partnership to the partner or partners that filed the document. Next, 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.

Once the process 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 will then be 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 Rights and Benefits of Domestic Partners in New Jersey?

Domestic partners in New Jersey Domestic partners in New Jersey have the following legal rights and protections under the laws of New Jersey:

  • Healthcare Benefits: Domestic partners have the right to access healthcare benefits provided by their partner’s employer or their partner’s healthcare plan;
  • Decision Making: In the event of a medical emergency, domestic partners may have the right to make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, similar to the rights granted under a medical power of attorney;
  • Inheritance Rights: In the absence of a will naming the partner, domestic partners may have certain inheritance rights, such as death benefits; and
  • Other Rights: Domestic partners also have legal rights to jointly owned property and financial assets that they acquired during the domestic partnership, similar to that of a marriage.

ow Are Domestic Partnerships in New Jersey Terminated?

Terminating a domestic partnership in New Jersey is similar to terminating a marriage in New Jersey. If domestic partners are seeking to end their domestic partnership they will need to follow the following procedures:

  • File a Request to Terminate the Partnership: Either one of the domestic partners may file a request to terminate the domestic partnership with their local New Jersey Superior Court.
    • This request may also be filed jointly by both partners to initiate the termination process;
    • Meet Eligibility Requirements: In order for a New Jersey Superior Court to grant a termination of a domestic partnership, certain requirements must be met. These requirements may include grounds such as:
    • Voluntary sexual relations with a person other than the domestic partner; Evidence of desertion for one year;
    • Evidence of extreme cruelty;
    • Separation from one another for a period of 18 months; or
    • Evidence of drug addiction or habitual drunkenness for one year; and
  • Waiting Period: After filing the request for termination, there is a six-month waiting period before the termination may be finalized.
    • During the waiting period the benefits of the domestic partnership will continue until the partnership is officially terminated by court order.
    • If the individual who filed for termination wishes to withdraw their request during the waiting period, they have the option to withdraw their request.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Domestic Partnerships in New Jersey?

If you have any questions regarding domestic partnerships in New Jersey, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced New Jersey family lawyer. As mentioned throughout this article, domestic partnerships vary greatly from state to state. Consulting with an attorney will ensure you receive the most accurate and up to date information regarding the laws in New Jersey.

Whether or not you wish to register or terminate a domestic partnership in New Jersey, an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process. An attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, should there be an issue regarding the recognition or termination of your domestic partnership.

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