What Is A Domestic Partnership, And What Does It Mean For You?

Written and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

It might surprise you to know that the 2015 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court making same-sex marriages legal in all states has not eliminated the need for domestic partnerships. Although they gained in popularity as an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples living in states where such unions were illegal, asking someone to answer the question, “What is a domestic partnership?” might be answered by a blank stare.

State laws and domestic partnerships

What is a domestic partnership? It’s a creation of state law in much the same way that marriage is a union authorized and recognized by the laws of each state. You should not confuse a domestic partnership with a marriage because each state has its own laws and the benefits available to domestic partners might not be fewer than those granted to married couples.

How to enter into a domestic partnership

Most states require couples to register as a domestic partnership. Usually, the partners must meet the following requirements:

.   Both partners must reside within the city or the state in which registration is sought

.   Both parties must be of a specified minimum age

.   Some cities or states require the partners to attest to the fact that they are actually living together at the same address

.   Neither partner can be in another domestic partnership or married to another person

.   The partners cannot be related by blood in a way that would be a bar to a marriage under the laws of the state

If the partners meet all of the qualifications, they usually must sign a domestic partnership affidavit or agreement and file it with the appropriate city, county or state official. There might be a nominal fee charged as part of the application process.

Benefits available to domestic partners

Depending upon the laws in the state or municipality in which domestic partners have registered as a domestic partnership, some of the benefits to which they might become legally entitled to receive include:

.   Child care leave

.   Family leave to care for a sick domestic partner

.   Bereavement leave

.   Visitation in the same manner as family members at hospitals  and correctional facilities

.   The ability to add a partner on a health insurance plan as a family member

.   Rights as family members under apartment leases

All states do not offer the same benefits. Some states allow domestic partners the same inheritance rights as are granted to married couples, but some states do not grant such rights.

Domestic partnerships not limited to same-sex couples

Living together and sharing a domestic relationship without being married is not limited to same-sex couples. Any couple, regardless the gender of the parties, may register as a domestic partnership as long as they meet the requirements of the law of their state or city.

Understanding domestic partnerships

Because the laws can be so different from one state to another, you might be confused and wonder what is a domestic partnership? You might benefit from consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable about the domestic partnership laws where you live to get answers to your questions.

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