A domestic partnership involves two committed individuals who are living together but are not married. Many states within the United States recognize this type of relationship.

Individuals in domestic partnerships share their finances and may also raise children as unmarried parents. In addition, they may be able to apply and register their relationship in order to receive certain government benefits.

Although originally available to same- sex couples who were prohibited from getting married, domestic partnerships are now available to all types of couples. There are no federal guidelines which provide an exact definition of a domestic partnership. In the United States, every state defines these types of relationships differently.

The main purpose of domestic partnerships was to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil contracts that would protect some of their rights as a couple. The individuals are not required to participate in a ceremony to enter into the contract.

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

  • Both parties being 18 years of age or older;
  • Both parties being competent to consent to enter into a contract;
  • The individuals sharing a common residence;
  • The individuals 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.

In some cases, the domestic partners may formalize their partnership by registering with their local government, their state, or their employer. The registration process is started by filing an application with the court and signing the application in front of witnesses.

Both partners will be required to provide identification and pay any required fees in order to complete the application process. Documents that may be required at the time of application include:

  • Proper identification for both individuals, which varies by state, but often includes a driver’s license or passport;
    • Depending on the state, other documents may also be proper identification. Check the state’s requirements before applying; and
  • A current mortgage, rental agreement, or lease which includes the names of both applications as occupants of the residence.

If the partners hold themselves out as being domestic partners but do not formally register the relationship with the court, they may not be eligible to receive the same benefits as partners who are registered with the court.

Which States Recognize Domestic Partnerships?

Each state in the United States has its own laws regarding domestic partnerships, which are constantly changing. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a family attorney to determine the current status of domestic partnerships in the partners’ state.

States that currently recognize domestic partnership relationships include:

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

It is important to note that, in certain states, benefits for domestic partnerships are only permitted in specific areas of the state. A lawyer will be able to provide advice regarding the exact guidelines in the partners’ state.

How are Domestic Partnerships Terminated?

Domestic partnerships can be terminated if both or one of the parties applies for termination of the relationship. There is a six month waiting period following the application for termination during which the benefits will continue.

The termination may be withdrawn if the individual who filed wishes to do so. However, after the six month waiting period, a new domestic partnership application will be required.

In some instances, the domestic partnership relations will automatically terminate. This may occur when:

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

Who Qualifies to Register as Domestic Partners in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the domestic partner law applies to same-sex couples. It also applies to opposite-sex couples in which one of the individuals is 62 years of age or older.

What is an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership?

If individuals wish to become registered domestic partners in New Jersey, they are required to complete an Affidavit of Domestic Partnerships. Their domestic partnership will not be registered in the state until the Affidavit is filed and the Certificate of Domestic Partnership has been issued.

The Affidavit of Domestic Partnership can be obtained from the Local Registrar of Vital Statistics in New Jersey. This applies to municipalities throughout the State of New Jersey.

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

An Affidavit of Domestic Partnership is required to be notarized. A notary public or a lawyer will be able to notarize the Affidavit.

It is important to note that both individuals must be present at the time the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership is notarized. The Affidavit is designed so that both partners must appear together before a notary and attest to the items in the document, then they sign the document together.

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

Yes, it is also important to note that both partners are required to be present when filing the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership. Once the Affidavit is filed and the Certificate of Domestic Partnership is created, both partners are required to sign in order to have the document filed.

Why Should My Partner and I Register as Domestic Partners in New Jersey?

There are benefits that individuals may receive if they register as domestic partners in New Jersey which may be similar to those the state provides to married individuals. These may include:

  • Inclusion on insurance coverage through one another’s employers;
  • Medical decision making rights for each other; and
  • The ability to file joint state tax returns.

It is important to note that individuals who are in domestic partnerships do not always enjoy the same benefits as a married couple. In addition to the benefits listed above, some states do provide benefits which may include:

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

Certain employers will also offer these types of benefits even if a state does not recognize the domestic partnership relationship. It is important to check with a local attorney to determine exactly what benefits are available.

What Rights Will Domestic Partners Still Not Have in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, domestic partnership law does not provide:

Do I Need a Lawyer to Register a Domestic Partnership in New Jersey?

Although you are not required to have a lawyer’s assistance when registering a domestic partnership in New Jersey, consulting with a New Jersey family lawyer is an excellent idea. Your lawyer can advise you regarding your rights as a domestic partner.

Your family lawyer will also be able to assist you with adoption issues, if applicable. You and your partner may also want to consider consulting a wills and trusts attorney to assist you with estate planning, since inheritance rights are not provided, as noted above. This will protect your wishes in the event one of you becomes incapacitated or passes away.