A domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two individuals that confers some, but not all, of the same benefits as marriage. Individuals enter into a domestic partnership by registering the partnership with their state of residence. One or both partners may seek to terminate a domestic partnership. Not all states allow domestic partnerships.
The legal proceeding to end a domestic partnership is called a termination proceeding. Each state has its own procedures. In all states, if the domestic partnership was entered into through a written agreement, the terms of the agreement will also control how the partnership ends. Many states have developed expedited domestic partnership proceedings. These proceedings require less paperwork and considerably less time than divorce proceedings do.
What is a Domestic Partnership?
Domestic partnerships are the legal unions of two individuals. Most states allow couples to enter domestic partnerships. A domestic partnership confers legal benefits on the couple that enters into it. Typical benefits include:
- The right to enroll in a partner’s health insurance plan
- The authority to make medical decisions for a partner if the partner is legally incapable of doing so. This authority is given through a healthcare power of attorney.
- The right to adopt children.
- Life insurance benefits.
Before 2015, many states offered domestic partnerships. States that prohibited same-sex marrriage offered domestic partnerships to create a legal union for same-sex couples. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court ruled that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage violate the right to equal protection under the law. In the wake of Obergefell, some states ceased to offer domestic partnerships.
Currently, the following state offer domestic partnership status:
- The District of Columbia (D.C.)
- New Jersey
Each state has its own registration requirements. Some states limit domestic partnership to same-sex couples. Others permit same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partnership status. In many states not on the list, domestic partnership registration is permitted by local, rather than state, law. This means a couple may register for domestic partnership status at the county or municipal level. The partnership will be recognized by that level of government.
What States Recognize Domestic Partnership?
California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia (D.C.), Maryland, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington allow couples to enter into domestic partnerships. Each state has its own eligibility requirements. Generally, grounds that would disqualify a couple from obtaining a marriage license, prevent that couple from being granted domestic partnership status.
These grounds include:
- One or both partners are under the age of 18.
- The partners are related by blood, in a manner that would prevent them from becoming married.
- The couple does not have a close, committed personal relationship.
- The couple has not been living together on a continual basis.
- One or both would-be partners is or are already in a domestic partnership with someone else.
The states that have domestic partnerships have the same general requirements for termination of the partnership. Generally, a partnership will automatically terminate when one partner dies or marries. A partnership will usually automatically terminate if the couples do not live together. Parties who want the partnership to terminate begin the termination process by filing a notice of termination of domestic partnership with the family court or clerk of the court. Partners can usually file with the clerk of the court if there are no issues relating to division of property, and no issues related to maintenance or child support.
Couples who have disputes over these issues must file the proceeding with a family court judge. This judge will review each party’s evidence and testimony on issues of maintenance, child support, and property division. The judge will review what provisions of the partnership agreements address these issues. The judge, after being presented with evidence, will issue an order terminating the partnership. They may also issue an order with respect to maintenance, child support, or child custody, when neither the law nor the partnership agreement explicitly resolve these issues.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in California
California permits summary dissolution of a domestic partnership in certain situations. To be eligible for summary dissolution, partners must (among other requirements) have been registered as a domestic partnership for five years or less; must not have children that were born or adopted before or during the domestic partnership, and must not own any part of buildings or land.
The partners must file forms requesting dissolution. The partners must then file these forms with the Secretary of State. Domestic partnerships that are of a more permanent nature may only be dissolved through a court proceeding.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Colorado
Colorado permits domestic partnership termination, through the City Clerk of Boulder. A domestic partnership may be terminated when a partner dies; the partners are no longer in a committed relationship; or the partners no longer live together. A court proceeding is not required.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Washington D.C.
In Washington, District of Columbia, a domestic partnership will automatically terminate if either partner dies; the partners marry each other; a partner marries someone else; or one partner abandons the partnership or the common residence. One or both parties may file for termination.
A six-month waiting period must be observed before termination is finalized. Domestic partners may jointly file a termination statement with the Office of the Mayor of the District of Columbia. If one partner decides to terminate the partnership, the partner must file the termination statement with the Mayor’s Office, and serve a copy on the other partner.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Maine
Maine offers a simplified procedure for termination of domestic partnerships. The partners need not go to court to have the partnership dissolved. One or both parties may terminate the partnership by filing a Notice of Termination with the Maine CDC vital records office. That office terminates the partnership.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Maryland
Maryland requires domestic partnerships to complete a form entitled Termination of Domestic Partnership. The form must be notarized. When the form is completed, it must be filed with the City Clerk’s Office.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in New Jersey
To end a domestic partnership in New Jersey, one or both partners must file a request for termination. The request must be filed with the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey. That court will terminate the partnership provided one or more criteria for termination are met. The Superior Court will also decide issues related to maintenance, child custody, child support, and property division.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Nevada
In Nevada, if the partnership was entered into five years ago or less, and the couple agrees to all terms of separation, the couple can terminate the partnership by filing a form. The form must be accompanied by a filing fee. The form, with the fee, must be filed with the Secretary of State. If a domestic partnership was entered into more than five years ago, or, the partners cannot agree on issues involving custody, maintenance, or property, the couple must file a termination proceeding with the family court.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Oregon
Oregon partners may terminate a partnership by filing a Dissolution of Partnership. The exact process differs between domestic partners who have children, and those that do not. The state of Oregon maintains a website that contains the required documents.
How to End a Domestic Partnership in Washington State
The state of Washington requires domestic partnerships to be dissolved through a court proceeding. Previously, termination could be accomplished by filing documents with the Secretary of State. Now, couples must file a dissolution action in state Superior Court. The judge issues a court order dissolving the partnership. The judge also can set a parenting and child support plan if there are child custody issues.
Do You Need a Lawyer to End a Domestic Partnership?
If you are seeking to end a domestic partnership, you should contact a family lawyer. An experienced family law attorney near you can review the facts of your case. The family law attorney can also advise you as to your rights and options. They can also represent you at mediation, court hearings, and trials.