A domestic partnership is a relationship between two unmarried persons who are living together in a “committed relationship”. Couples who are granted domestic partnership status may become eligible for some of the same rights, privileges and benefits that married couples enjoy.
Domestic partnerships are like common law marriages and can apply to unmarried couples who are living together. Many registered domestic-partnerships are people who are same-sex couples. Domestic relationships are not legally recognized marriages, but they do offer some of the same benefits as a marriage.
How Is a Domestic Marriage Acquired?
In order to obtain a domestic partnership certificate, most states require that the couple be involved in a “committed relationship”, be financially interdependent with one another, and be at least 18 years old. Domestic partnership certificates are usually maintained as public documents in a registry.
The laws governing domestic partnerships can be very different from state to state. For example, some states fully recognize domestic partnerships and extend benefits to them. Other states maintain registries that allow the a couple to file for domestic partnership with the state. Some states do not maintain registries, yet still extend benefits to domestic partner couples.
What Are the Benefits of Entering into a Domestic Partnership?
Many couples enter into domestic partnership so that they can receive benefits and rights that are normally reserved for married couples. Again, the availability of domestic partnership benefits may vary from state to state.
Some of the more common benefits associated with domestic partnerships include:
- Various health care and insurance benefits
- Joint ownership of real estate
- Employee benefits for domestic partners (family/medical leave, etc.)
- Visitation rights in hospitals and prisons
Do All States Recognize Domestic Partnerships?
Not all states recognize domestic partnerships. As mentioned, domestic partnership rights by state are very different.
States that do not recognize domestic partnerships are: AL, AK, AR, DE, ID, KS, KT, MI, MO, NE, NH, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, TN, and UT.
You may wish to consult with a lawyer if you are unclear of the domestic partnership laws in your area.
What Happens When a Domestic Partnership is Terminated?
The process for terminating a domestic partnership can often be similar to that of divorce for married couple. For example, some states allow a party to claim alimony or support payments in connection with dissolution of domestic partnership.
The party seeking the dissolution must provide the other partner with notice, and then hearings can begin in a civil court. Once the dissolution is final, the parties will no longer be able to claim any benefits or advantages offered to domestic partners.
Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding Domestic Partnerships?
Domestic partnerships are not fully recognized in all states. If you have a question or concern regarding the domestic partnership laws in your area, a family law attorney can be of much help. Or, if you need to file a civil claim in connection with a domestic partnership dispute, a lawyer can represent you in a court of law.