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domestic partnerships

Domestic partnership vs. common-law marriage

Common-law marriage and domestic partnership sound like they would be the same thing. They are both legal formal relationship statuses, and they both are identified as two people who refer to themselves as spouses/or partners living together but not actually married. They are sharing responsibilities such as bills, groceries and other finances but let’s dig a little further into what is classified as a common law marriage and domestic partnership.

What’s the difference between domestic partnership and common law marriage?

Common-law is gender-specific and is only between a man and women, with the exception of Iowa, Rhode Island, and District of Columbia, which allows same-sex marriages. It can provide you the rights and benefits of a formal married couple would have.

A domestic partnership is, essentially, an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples. It allows you to define your relationship status. A domestic partnership will entitle you and your partner to many of the same benefits that a married couple enjoys.

Every state has its own right to define what a marriage is. If you enter into a domestic partnership or common-law marriage, it might not be recognized when crossing state borders.

Legal rights and benefits

If the state that you are living in supports common law marriage, you may be granted the same legal benefits of those who are married. That includes social security benefits, insurance benefits, pension and tax exemptions.

Domestic partnerships allow you to have shared health benefits, bereavement leave and visitation rights in hospitals and jails. However, since the union is not federally recognized, you are unable to claim your partner’s social security benefits.

The process for ending the relationship is the equivalent of getting a divorce.

Common-law marriage in most states is considered the same as a legal and binding formal marriage, and the process of getting a divorce is roughly the same. You will want to check with your county clerk on the divorce requirements because they can vary per state.

Not all states recognize domestic partnerships, and you can only terminate a domestic partnership in a state that does. The process for ending a domestic partnership is roughly the same as getting a divorce and the requirements to end a relationship can vary in each state that recognizes the union.

Domestic partnerships and common law marriages are similar in what they are, but when you look at the legal side of each, they really do have their differences when it comes to benefits and how each union is viewed in different states. If you need more information regarding the difference, Rocket Lawyer is here to help. Ask a lawyer your questions now.


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