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How Are Domestic Partnerships Different Than Marriages?

Board Certified Boca Raton Divorce Attorney

A domestic partnership is a relationship between two individuals who live together but are not married. The term is not used consistently, which causes some confusion. It is essentially an alternative to marriage. While same-sex couples utilize this distinction most frequently, more and more heterosexual couples are not utilizing domestic partnerships. It allows you to define your status and put it on record, without the actual marriage. The couple receives a lot of the same rights, though not all.

Domestic Partnerships vs. Marriage

There are some key differences between a domestic partnership and marriage. For example, a domestic partnership may permit you to add your partner to health insurance documents, but there might be a need for proof of commitment. There are many states that will allow a partner to adopt a partner’s child through Second Parent Adoption, but only if the biological parent relinquishes parental rights. While there are many shared benefits, between a domestic partnership and marriage, the marriage will have more benefits.

All states and most countries recognize marriages. However, only a few states recognize domestic partnership. Partners are not legally considered family. The federal government does not recognize domestic partnership, so you cannot afford your non-citizen partner the same benefits of marriage. And married couples will automatically inherit assets upon death, and without taxes, partners can only do so with a will and with tax. You can read more about domestic partnership here.

Do You Qualify For A Domestic Partnership?

A domestic partnership is defined by your city, so you will want to check with your City Clerk’s office. However, the general requirements tend to be:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Neither partner may be in a marriage or a domestic partnership at the time
  • Both parties must cohabitate, with the intent of permanency
  • You must not be blood relatives, as barred by the state
  • You must be of the mental capacity to sign a contract
  • Residence or employment in the city you are seeking domestic partnership in
  • You have mutually agreed to be responsible for each other’s common welfare.
Other requirements might include:
  • You must be in an exclusive, committed relationship (usually from six to twelve months)
  • Consent of cannot be coerced or obtained via fraud or duress
  • You have not been party to a previous domestic partnership or marriage within a certain period.

The registration process for domestic partnership is simple. You will fill out an application, which you can obtain from the city. Both partners appear in person with identification and proof of residence or employment in that city and pay the registration fee. You sign the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership in front of a Clerk or Notary, and you receive a copy of your domestic partnership. Some places will laminate cards for you, as well.

How Do You Establish Domestic Partnerships?

Registering as domestic partners is not enough. There are other documents you will need, as they will come in handy in the long run. These documents are things like:

  • Living Together Agreement
  • Wills, Living Wills or Directive to Physicians
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care and Finances
  • Legal Precautions, Partners Co-Parenting
  • Hospital Visitation Authorization
  • Living (Revocable) Trusts

Domestic Partnerships: Separation

Unfortunately, whether you are in a marriage or domestic partnership, there is always a possibility that it won’t last. And if both partners have to go their separate ways, assets can get a little sticky. Just as with marriage, anything that you walked into the partnership with is separate property. This is also true of any gifts or inheritance you may have acquired during the domestic partnership. These will remain yours, even after the division. Anything else tends to be distributed evenly unless there is a need to balance equity interest.

In some cases, one party might ask for financial support after the domestic partnership ends. A court will make a decision on financial support on a case by case basis. Considerations for this might include the length of the partnership, the financial situation of both partners, the amount of time, the standard of living and age/health of the requesting party.

Legal Help

If you have more questions about domestic partnership, it is best to seek out a professional. They will have more details about what the requirements and benefits are in your area. You want to make sure that you are getting the right answers so that you can cover all of your bases. You don’t want to need a legal document that you don’t have. These problems can only come at the worst times. Having someone who understands the law can only be an asset. You can start your search here.