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.

The requirements for entering into a domestic partnership vary by state. Requirements may include:

  • Being 18 years of age or older;
  • Being competent to consent to enter into a contract;
  • Sharing a common residence;
  • Not being related in such a way that would prevent the individuals from being married; and
  • Neither party being in a domestic partnership or married to another individual.

Couples may be able to formalize their domestic partnerships by registering them with their employer, state in which they reside, or local government. The registration process begins by filing an application with the court and signing it in the presence of witnesses.

Both individuals will also be required to provide identification along with any associated fees to complete the application process. Documents which may be necessary when applying for a domestic partnership include:

  • Proper identification, which may vary by state, but can include a driver’s license or passport;
    • Other documents may also be considered proper identification. It is important to check the state’s requirements; and
  • A current rental agreement, lease, or mortgage, that names both applications as occupants of the residence.

If the individuals hold themselves out to being in a domestic partnership relationship but do not register with the court, they may not receive the same benefits as individuals who are registered with the court.

What are the Benefits of a Domestic Partnership?

It is important to note that individuals in domestic partnership relationships do not enjoy the same benefits as married couples. However, some states do provide benefits. These may include:

  • Dental, vision, and health insurance;
  • Death benefits;
  • Inheritance rights;
  • Visitation rights in hospitals and jails;
  • The ability to make financial decisions for a partner;
  • The ability to make medical decisions for a partner;
  • Accident and life insurance;
  • Housing rights; and
  • Parental leave and adoption rights.

Some employers will offer these types of benefits even if the state does not recognize domestic partnership relationships.

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

In 2015, the United States legalized same-sex marraige. In some states, individuals may marry one another without terminating the domestic partnership.

The partnership may continue to exist along with the marriage. However, if the court desires, they can terminate the domestic partnership without affecting the marriage.

Which States Recognize Domestic Partnerships?

State laws governing domestic partnerships are frequently changing. Because of this, it is important to consult with a family attorney to learn the current status of domestic partnerships in an individual’s state.

States which recognize domestic partnership relationships currently include:

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

It is important to be aware that certain states only allow benefits in a specific area of the state. An attorney can provide guidance regarding the exact guidelines in an individual’s state.

What is an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership?

In New Jersey, if individuals want to become registered domestic partners, they are required to obtain an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership. The domestic partnership will not be registered in the State of New Jersey until the Affidavit has been filed and the Certificate of Domestic Partnership has been issued.

Where Do I Go To Get an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership?

In New Jersey, an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership must be obtained from the Local Registrar of Vital Statistics. This applies in any municipality throughout the State of New Jersey.

Where Do I File My Affidavit of Domestic Partnership?

Once an individual has their Affidavit of Domestic Partnership, they are required to file it and register it with the Local Registrar of Vital Statistics. This applies in all municipalities in the State of New Jersey.

Who Can Notarize the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership?

An Affidavit of Domestic Partnership must be notarized. An attorney or a notary public are able to notarize the Affidavit.

Do Both Partners Have to Be There to Have the Affidavit Notarized?

Yes, both partners must be present to have the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership notarized. The Affidavit is designed so that the individuals must appear together before the notary can attest to the items within the Affidavit, then the parties sign the document together.

Do Both Partners Have to Be There to File the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership?

Both individuals must be present in order to file the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership. Once the Affidavit has been filed, with the local registrar and the Certificate of Domestic Partnership has been created, both partners are then required to sign.

How Does a Domestic Partnership Compare to a Marriage?

A domestic partnership and a marriage may have different similarities and differences, depending on the individual’s state. Every individual in the United States has the right to enter into a marriage. As previously noted, domestic partnership relationships are not recognized in all states.

Marriages typically provide more protections and benefits for the spouses when compared to domestic partnership relationships. A domestic partnership relationship is not seen as a family under the law.

A married couple can inherit assets automatically from their spouse upon their spouse’s death. This, however, does not apply to domestic partnerships.

In addition, married couples are allowed to file their tax returns jointly. Couples who are married can also receive Social Security benefits.

Choosing to be in a domestic partnership relationship versus entering into a marriage may depend on many relationship and emotional factors. If individuals are considering marriage or domestic partnership as an option for them, it may be helpful to have an attorney explain the benefits, rights, and protections provided under the law of their state for both types of relationships.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Register a Domestic Partnership?

It is very important to have the assistance of a New Jersey family lawyer for any issues surrounding domestic partnerships that you may have. Although it is not necessary to have an attorney when registering your domestic partnership, your attorney can explain the differences, choices, and consequences that are involved when you register a domestic partnership. Since the laws are different in each state, having a lawyer is very important.