Home Domestic Partnership Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships

Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships

Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships

Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships

A domestic partnership is a legal union between two individuals who have chosen to live together and share a domestic life together but are not married. Domestic partnerships were created as a way to ensure that same-sex couples, who were once excluded from marriage, have access to similar legal rights and protections. However, today, domestic partnerships are no longer just limited to same-sex unions. Heterosexual couples and non-romantic cohabitants can also register for domestic partnerships. In this article, we will discuss everything you must know about domestic partnerships, including their legal rights, requirements for registration, and how to dissolve them.

Legal Rights of Domestic Partnerships

Domestic partnerships are recognized at the state level, which means that not all states in the United States recognize them. As of 2021, only ten states and the District of Colombia offer domestic partnerships. These states include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Domestic partnerships offer several legal rights to registered partners. These rights can vary depending on the state in which the partnership is established. However, most states provide similar benefits, including:

1. Health Benefits – Domestic partners can receive health insurance benefits through their partner’s employer. In some states, domestic partners can also access the same medical benefits as married couples, including hospital visitation rights, medical decision-making, and eligibility for employer-based wellness programs.

2. Estate Planning and Inheritance – Registered partners can name each other as beneficiaries in wills, living trusts, and retirement accounts.

3. Property Ownership and Shared Debts – Partners in a domestic partnership can own property jointly, including homes, cars, and business assets. They can also share liabilities and debts.

4. Child Custody and Support – Domestic partners are commonly granted the same rights regarding child custody and support as married couples in the state.

5. Birth and Death Certificates – In states where domestic partnerships are recognized, the partner’s name can be listed on the birth or death certificate of their partner.

Requirements for Registering a Domestic Partnership

To register a domestic partnership, the couple must meet specific requirements, which can vary by state. Most states require that both partners be over the age of 18 and not married or in another domestic partnership. They must also show that they share a common residence and are financially interdependent.

Some states require that couples have been living together for a specific period, such as six continuous months, before they can register for a partnership. The process and requirements for registration usually differ by state, but most involve filing a declaration of domestic partnership with the appropriate government office and paying a registration fee.

It’s critical to note that, following the 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriages in the United States, many states have eliminated or reduced the benefits associated with domestic partnerships, making them less beneficial for many same-sex couples. Some states have even stopped accepting new registrations of domestic partnerships entirely.

How to Dissolve a Domestic Partnership

Just like a marriage, a domestic partnership can be dissolved in several ways. The partners can decide to terminate the partnership through a voluntary termination process. This process typically requires the filing of a notice of termination, marriage or partnership termination agreement, and a termination declaration. These documents usually cover the division of property, debts, and spousal or partner support.

If the partners can’t agree on how to divide property or debts, they may need to go through court to resolve these issues. This is very similar to a divorce process. In such a case, a court can intervene and order property division and support agreements.


Domestic partnerships continue to play an essential role in society, offering legal support, rights, and benefits to unmarried couples, either same or opposite gender, who choose to live together. While some states in the United States have eliminated or reduced the benefits associated with domestic partnerships, these legal partnerships remain an essential option for some couples who legally wish to cohabit and share expenses.

As the law continues to evolve, it is critical to stay informed about the benefits and limitations of domestic partnerships. If you have any question about establishing a domestic partnership or dissolving one, it’s essential to seek the advice of a qualified attorney. You can also check your local government’s website for detailed information about domestic partnerships and how to register for one in your state.

Domestic partnerships are a legally recognized relationship between a couple that resides together and are not married, or in another legally recognized relationship.

Generally, the couple must have resided together for a certain length of time, and be over the age of eighteen.

The couple may consist of same-sex individuals, or opposite-sex individuals depending on state law.

A domestic partnership is currently the only legally recognized form of same-sex relationships in many states and countries worldwide.

Currently, domestic partnership is legally recognized in nine states and in the District of Columbia. While the debate on domestic partnership rages on, there are other debates as well.

For instance, many members of the LGBT community, with their relationship to be defined as a marriage.

In many states, the choice of a legalized term for same-sex relationships will exclude marriage as an option.

In many cases, same-sex couples are pleased to have their relationship legally recognized by any term.

However, many couples will not accept any term other than marriage. Until the larger debates are settled, many same-sex couples are offered the legal option of domestic partnership.

Couples that obtain an affidavit of domestic partnership, have proof of their entitlement to many of the rights that are usually reserved for the opposite sex, married couples.

Many of those legal rights are prohibited without a couple entering into some form of a legally recognized relationship.


Domestic partnerships are defined as relationships between couples that reside together without any other legal recognition of the relationship.

The relationship may between same-sex or opposite-sex couples.

In some cases, that couple is entitled to some or all of, the rights and responsibilities that are normally reserved for opposite-sex married couples.

The rights conferred on the relationship will depend on the laws of their state of residence. In fact, many states offer only limited rights to domestic partners.

There are, however, some rights that are pretty standard from state to state. Domestic partnership agreements may allow couples to enter into a contract that protects the individual and shared property in the event of a separation.

However, their individual and shared rights during their relationship, are of greater importance.

For example, couples may be allowed to inherit property from each other, in addition to being allowed to share that property while they are both alive.

In many states, domestic partners are also allowed to share health benefits. Also, couples can be allowed to make health care decisions regarding their partner, agree to organ donation, as well as make funeral arrangements for their partner.

These rights were never conferred upon same-sex couples until the advent of the domestic partnership agreement.


California was the first state to legally address the validity of domestic partnerships and the implications for same-sex couples.

In fact, California was the first state to offer same-sex couples any legal recognition of their relationship.

The term domestic partnership was first used in a court case in which one partner was fighting to have his relationship recognized in order to receive bereavement pay after his partner passed away.

That individual claimed that his employer withheld pay that was due him. However, the judge sided with the employer, claiming that there was no proof that a relationship existed between the two men.

While that case failed to recognize that couples’ relationship, it brought the idea to the forefront.

Berkeley’s citizens began to request some form of legal recognition for same-sex relationships.

Eventually, the city adopted domestic partnership laws. Statewide domestic partnerships laws in California would follow.

Eventually, other states began to legally recognize same-sex relationships in some form.

While states offer different rights to domestic partners, there are currently nine states that recognize them as legally valid.


Domestic partnerships offer same-sex couples the opportunity to have their relationship legally recognized by the state in which they reside.

In some cases, other states will also recognize the legality of the relationship, and offer the same, or similar rights and responsibilities as a result of the relationship.

For example, a domestic agreement from Colorado would be recognized in California.

In fact, the couple would have more rights conferred on their relationship in California.

Domestic partnership agreements can include issues that would normally be confronted in prenuptial agreements, marriage agreements, and even be utilized as a tool for estate planning.

In fact, domestic partnership agreements can be utilized to aid same sex couples in attaining equal rights. Domestic partnerships allow couples to exercise those rights during a relationship, and it the event that the relationship ends through death or separation.

Legal Rights:

Couples that obtain an affidavit of domestic partnership, are entitled to many of the same rights and responsibilities associated with marriage.

Domestic partners are able to own property jointly and open joint bank accounts. In addition, couples can get a mortgage or other loans, together.

Domestic partners also become responsible for providing for their partner’s needs in the areas of food and shelter.

In many cases, domestic partnership affidavits make partners liable for each other’s debt and other financial responsibilities.

In some states, domestic partners are also able to make health care decisions for their partners and they also become entitled to visit their partner in the hospital or in prison.

In fact, domestic partners are able to take part in estate planning and also to make funeral arrangements for each other.

In addition, some domestic partners are legally able to change their surname to match that of their partners.

Like marriage, domestic partnerships allow couples to enjoy many rights and responsibilities because of the legal recognition of their relationship.

Benefits Arguments For:

Citizens of the United States are assured that they are supposed to have access to equal rights. However, members of the LGBT community are often denied access to rights that are generally afforded to the public.

By denying the legality of same-sex marriage, the rights associated with marriage are also denied.

In fact, same-sex couples are confronted with the loss of property and assets when a partner dies.

In some cases, a partner is forced to vacate the property because they are not legally allowed to be listed on the lease or deed.

In addition, partners may not be able to visit each other in the hospital or make medical decisions even though they are most aware of their partner’s wishes.

Domestic partnership agreements allow same-sex couples the ability to care for each other in life and in death. Without the agreements, same-sex couples have no legal rights regarding their relationship.

In order to enjoy the rights afforded to marriage, couples must first be legally allowed to recognize their relationship.

In doing so, same sex couples are then able to enjoy the rights that follow the legal recognition of their relationships, such as shared property, joint bank accounts, and the ability to make health care decisions.

Arguments Against:

There are many arguments against the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. For instance, the opposition claims that the legal recognition of same-sex relationships puts the sanity of marriage in jeopardy.

In fact, many people claim that a marriage, or any similar relationship, should strictly be recognized as the unique relationship between a man and a woman.

Many people claim that same-sex couples will be able to start families once they are able to legally recognize their relationship.

In addition, the opposition feels that same-sex couples will be unable to effectively parent.

In essence, the opposition claims that there are too many negative implications associated with children raised by same sex parents.

People use the negative outcomes as an argument against gay marriage, citing psychological and social implications that are supposedly associated with same-sex couples raising children.

In general, the opposition claims that marriage is strictly meant for an opposite-sex couple, with the intent of starting a family. Any other variation denies the sanctity of marriage.

Brief Description of States that Allow and the Differences Between them:

In some states, domestic partners are entitled to all of the same rights as married couples. However, some states offer domestic partners only limited rights. Nevada is one state that offers domestic partners all of the rights that are conferred on a married couple.

That means that a domestic partnership is like marriage, in every way, except for in a name. In Nevada, married couples receive no benefit over domestic partnerships.

However, Maryland offers very limited rights to domestic partners. Mostly domestic partners receive rights as they relate to health care in Maryland. In fact, couples cannot enjoy many of the rights afforded to married couples in Maryland.

Oregon is another example of a state that offers domestic partners limited rights regarding their domestic partnership status.

In Oregon, couples can share health insurance, visit each other in the hospital, make funeral arrangements, and inherit a property in the absence of a will.

Domestic partners in Washington state enjoy similar rights to domestic partners in Oregon. However, partners are also able to request an autopsy and make organ donations on behalf of their partner.

While many states currently offer legal domestic partnerships, the rights afforded to those couples can vary greatly from state to state.

If domestic partners should move to another state that legally recognizes their relationship, their rights may change in regards to their relationship.

For instance, domestic partners that move from California to Washington state, are likely to lose some rights regarding their relationship.

However, their relationship would still be legally recognized as opposed to moving to a state that offers no legal recognition.

International Usage: Domestic Partnerships versus Marriage:

For some domestic partners, the difference between their relationship and marriage can be the ability to have a family.

In many cases, domestic partners are unable to legally adopt children or have a surrogate baby. In fact, many state laws prohibit gay adoption by making only married couples eligible to adopt a child or have a surrogate baby.

In addition, many same-sex couples claim that any name, other than marriage, puts their relationship on a status lower than that of an opposite-sex couple.

In fact, the difference in rights afforded to domestic partnerships versus even same-sex marriage can be significant. For example, some domestic partners are unable to make health care decisions for their partner, while same-sex married couples generally can.

Also, domestic partners are unable to collect pensions, while opposite-sex married partners can collect pensions. In addition, opposite-sex married couples are also afforded federal tax credits.

Same-sex couples are entitled to no federal recognition of their relationship and therefore are entitled to no federal rights regarding their relationship.

Besides the psychological and emotional implications of no legal recognition for marriages, same-sex couples also face many complications in the event that one partner passes away.

In addition to being unable to share in joint property and assets while alive, same-sex couples are sometimes confronted with the horrendous legal complications associated with not being married when one partner passes away.

For instance, partners can be evicted from the property or be unable to inherit assets that the couple built together.

In the absence of marriage, assets are generally turned over to the closet next of kin. In other words, a relative of the deceased will inherit the property and assets, rather than the partner.