Not everybody gets married, and not everybody wants to get married or can get married. That is why as Family Law attorneys, we are called upon to create legal documents to protect parties in different types of relationships, such as Domestic Partnership.
A Domestic Partnership, sometimes referred to as a Civil Union, is defined as a relationship between two people who live together and share a common domestic life, but are not married to each other or anyone else. It can include male-female couples as well as same-sex partners, and is especially prevalent in states that ban same-sex marriage because it enables a couple to create a bond and acquire some benefits. It is also easy to enter into and easy to end.
In some States, in order to have a legally-recognized Domestic Partnership, a couple must declare that their relationship is a serious one at a courthouse or designated government office. Documents must be filed and generally a fee is due for registration of a Domestic Partnership. In others, the mere preparation of a private Domestic Partnership Agreement or Non-Marital Partnership Agreement is enough, and no court filing is required unless a dispute arising that requires enforcement of that contractual agreement.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Domestic Partnerships
Domestic Partnerships can allow partners to enjoy some, but not all, of the benefits and rights similar to a married couple, as marriage, including the following (Note: Benefits may also vary by state or municipality).
• Family health insurance coverage with proof of commitment such as a shared bank account
• Rights to leave for sick partner or bereavement under the Family and Medical Leave Act
• Visitation rights (hospital or jail)
• Right to be considered next of kin for medical decisions (a well-written power of attorney is best)
• Protection of assets and ownership interests, including real estate holdings and bank accounts
• Adoption rights
Some of the drawbacks of a Domestic Partnership vs. marriage can include:
• Not recognized by other states, countries, the government, or many workplaces
• Health benefits provided for a partner are considered taxable income
• Transfers of assets, funds, or inheritances are considered taxable income
• Partners must file separate tax returns
• No entitlement to Social Security benefits or pensions
• No survivorship inheritance
Partners living together have few, if any, legal rights without a formal declaration, therefore it is important to formally lay out the terms of a domestic agreement to protect and respect ownership interests and assets. It is also extremely useful to have that attorney prepare an estate plan that grants certain rights by Power of Attorney or by Will that may not otherwise be recognized absent a marriage. Our experienced family law and estate planning attorneys can help.
Contact Your Family Law Attorney
To discuss setting up a Domestic Partnership, contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We specialize in Family and Estate law. Contact us today.