Registered Domestic Partnerships in Maine

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 What are Registered Domestic Partnerships?

Domestic partnerships are relationships between two people who live together but are not married. In the United States, several states recognize this type of relationship. The individuals in the relationship may be able to register the relationship in order to receive certain government benefits.

Domestic partnerships were first available only to same- sex couples who were barred from getting married. Currently, however, it can apply to different types of couples.

At the present time, the government has not provided any federal guidelines regarding the definition of a domestic partnership. A domestic partnership is defined differently in each state.

Domestic partnerships became available in Maine in 2004 to homosexual and heterosexual couples. A domestic partnership in Maine provides some benefits to a registered domestic partnership that were previously only available to married couples.

The intent of this law was to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil contracts that would protect their rights as a couple. No ceremony is required for this type of a contract.

In Maine, individuals must meet certain criteria in order to register as a domestic partner. This includes:

  • Each domestic partner is a competent adult;
  • The domestic partners have been legally domiciled together in Maine for at least 12 months prior to the filing;
  • Neither individual is married or in a registered domestic partnership with another individual; and
  • Each individual intends to be the sole domestic partner of the other individual, and intends to remain so.

In some cases, domestic partners may formalize their relationship by registering with the state in which they reside, their local government, or their employer. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, unmarred, and legally competent to enter into a contract.

The registration process begins by both parties filing applications with the court and signing those applications in the presence of witnesses. Both applicants will be required to provide proper identification in addition to any necessary fees in order to complete the application process.

Documents that may prove helpful when applying for a domestic partnership relationship include:

  • Proper identification for both individuals, which may include driver’s licenses or passports;
    • It is important to note that there are other documents which may be considered proper identification. Individuals should check their state’s requirements; and
  • A current mortgage, lease or rental agreement that names both applications as occupants of the residence.

If a couple does not formally register their domestic partnership with the court, they may not be entitled to the same benefits as a registered couple.

What are the Benefits of Domestic Partnerships?

It is important to note that individuals in a domestic partnership may not enjoy all of the same benefits as a married couple. Some states, however, do provide benefits, which may include:

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

Employers may offer these types of benefits even if the state they are in does not recognize domestic partnership relationships.

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

In 2012, Maine legalized same-sex marraige. As of 2015, the United States legalized same-sex marraige.

In Maine, a marriage to a domestic partner terminates their former domestic partnership. It is important to note, however, that domestic partnerships cannot automatically convert to marriages.

What States Recognize Domestic Partnership?

It is important to seek the advice of a family law attorney because the laws regarding domestic partnerships are frequently changing. However, there are some states which recognize these types of relationships, including:

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

It is also important to be aware that there are certain states which may only allow benefits in a specific area of the state. Individuals should consult the guidelines for their specific state.

What Rights Are Available to Domestic Partners in Maine?

Domestic partners who are registered in Maine are provided some of the same benefits as married couples. Benefits may include:

  • Taking precedence over other family members to act as a guardian if one partner becomes disabled;
  • One partner’s right to inherit from the other without a will;
  • Visiting each other in the hospital; and
    Benefiting from some employee health insurance policies.

A domestic partnership will not be provided all of the benefits that the State of Maine provides for married couples. In many circumstances, that is acceptable.

In addition, being in a domestic partnership may limit an individual’s eligibility for some federal benefits and may not be recognized in other states within the United States as well as in other countries. For these reasons, choosing whether to register as domestic partners or to get married will depend on the specific needs and wishes of the individuals.

How is a Domestic Partnership Terminated?

In order to terminate a domestic partnership, one of the individuals or both of the individuals may apply for the termination of the domestic partnership relationship. There is a six month waiting period requirement after the termination is filed that must pass prior to the domestic partnership termination.

If an individual or individuals who applied for the termination wishes to, they may apply to withdraw the termination. Once the six month waiting period has passed, however, the individuals will be required to reapply for a new domestic partnership after the termination of the previous one.

Automatic termination of a domestic partnership may occur in certain circumstances. These may include:

  • The death of one of the individuals;
  • Both partners marry one another;
  • One partner gets married to another individual;
  • One partner abandons the domestic partnership relationship; or
  • One partner abandons the mutual residence of the individuals.

How Do Domestic Partnerships Compare with Marriages?

The benefits provided to domestic partnership relationships vary by state. Every individual in the United States has the right to enter into a marriage. However, as previously discussed, not all states recognize domestic partnership relationships.

Marriages provide more protections and benefits than domestic partnership relationships. Domestic partnerships are not considered to be families under the law.

A married couple will inherit assets automatically upon the death of their spouse, however, this does not apply in domestic partnership relationships. Married couples are also permitted to file joint tax returns. Married couples also receive the benefits of Social Security.

Whether or not individuals choose to be in domestic partnerships or marriages may be dependent upon various emotional and relationship factors. If individuals are considering both a domestic partnership relationship and marriages as options, it would be extremely helpful to have an understanding of the benefits and rights which are given to both types of relationships.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It is very important to seek the help of a Maine family attorney with any domestic partnership relationship issues you may be facing. In Maine, there are significant differences in the rights and responsibilities of individuals in marriages and in domestic partnership relationships.

Your attorney will be able to explain the rights and benefits both types of relationships receive in Maine as well as help you determine what may best suit your needs. They can also assist you in resolving any issues you have with a marriage or domestic partnership, including dissolving a marriage or enforcing your domestic partnership rights.

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