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Domestic Partnership Agreement basics

Domestic Partnership Agreements provide protection for couples who are not legally married or part of a Civil Union. This agreement is suitable for all types of "Living Together" couples who are in a committed relationship.

Use the Domestic Partnership Agreement document if:

  • You want to formalize financial agreements between you and your partner.
  • You want rights to visit each other in hospitals or jail.
  • You want to give each other access to medical information and the right to consent for treatment.
  • You want to be able to provide legal rights to manage funeral and burial services.
  • You want to be able to provide medical benefits to your partner.

Since the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, Domestic Partnerships have declined in popularity, but benefits still exist for this type of agreement. For example, if your partner (same sex or not) is in a serious accident and the hospital is limiting visitation to "kin" or family only, you could be barred from visiting. A Domestic Partnership Agreement can provide legal visitation rights.

Other names for this document:

Domestic Partnership Agreement Form, Living Together Contracts

What is typically included in a Domestic Partnership?

The largest portion of most agreements are often financial. Like a Prenuptial Agreement they typically include details about whose property is whose, how to handle mutually owned property and debt responsibilities. Basically, it outlines ongoing financial obligations and what happens if the partnership dissolves or a partner dies.

Mutual expenses

This could include who is responsible for what and what portion they are responsible for, such as mortgage, utilities, insurance, food and savings plans. You may include life insurance information such as the amount required and beneficiaries.


Like marriage most agree to be responsible for the debt they had before the agreement and anything in their own name after. Mutual debt is often split 50/50, but a different proportion can be agreed upon.


You can define who gets property if the agreement dissolves or a partner dies. If you have pets, you can include information about pet ownership or visitation rights. You can also direct how gifted or inherited properties will be divided. You'll also want to have an updated Living Will in place and a Power of Attorney.

Domestic duties

Some even choose to include domestic responsibilities. For example, it may be decided that the person with the most earning power works while the other takes care of the home and children. You could also include basic chores and whether one person or both will pay for domestic help.

Health and medical

In many areas, domestic partners are defined as family or kin and will be allowed to visit the other in the hospital. If you want your partner to also have the right to your medical information and the option of medical consent, you can include some terms in your agreement. But you may also need additional documents such as an Advance Healthcare Directive and Medical ReleaseForms.

Funeral and burial services

This gives the partner rights, rather than defaulting to the family, to carry out funeral and burial or cremation plans. Of course, it helps if you and your partner define the plans in advance and provide each other access to the funds to pay for the services. Many also include the right to be buried together.

As with any important personal legal document like a will or prenup, you benefit from having your final document reviewed by a lawyer before you sign.

Who can enter a Domestic Partnership?

While local laws vary, usually there are few common requirements such as,

age. Most often the people will need to be over 18. Some states even have requirements for senior ages.

Commitment. Partners must live together and be in a committed relationship. How long the couple has been together also matters, usually it must be longer than six months or a year.

Not in another agreement. People cannot be in another agreement (or marriage) and sometimes there may be a wait period required before when one arrangement dissolves and the next agreement can begin.

Proof of commitment. Some states may require that you show information that displays your commitment such as lease agreements, mutual bills or state IDs listing the same address.

How do you file a Domestic Partnership?

It varies by area, but in many cases, you'll need to file with a state or city agency. Some have this type of agreement defined more like a business or corporate agreement and you'll apply with the department that manages business agreements. Other cities will require you to apply with the country clerk or recorder. You may also have to apply to be included in a Domestic Partners Registry for state wide recognition. Some government agencies even provide a certificate and or laminated card as proof. Since laws vary greatly, you benefit from asking a lawyer about your state's requirements.

Are Domestic Partnership Agreements recognized by the federal government?

No. Domestic Partnerships are supported by local and state governments, but not federally recognized. In terms of filing federal taxes, partners cannot claim head of household with a partner as a dependent and they cannot file as married filing jointly or married filing separately. Another complication of tax filing is determining what is considered "community funds" and who paid for what to determine who can claim credits or deductions.

Are agreements supported by other states?

Not always. Some states extend recognition to agreements registered in other states. But other states, especially those without current domestic partnership laws, may not. If you move to another state, you may need to create another agreement. If you are traveling, it is a good idea to keep quick access to documents such as medical release documents.

Can I add a domestic partner to my health insurance plan?

Maybe. And keep in mind that insurance companies change their policies frequently so what may be true today, might not be the case in six months. There might be specific rules for covering children of partners as well. The trend seems to be that less insurance companies are offering partner coverage since marriage rights were extended to all couples in 2015.

Domestic Partnerships vs. Legal Marriage

Some may be wondering why some choose a domestic partnership rather than just getting married. Some want to define the terms of their relationship rather than defaulting to how government entities define marriage. Using a Domestic Agreement, you and your partner can control how the government enforces the definition of your relationship rather than the other way around. While many are now choosing to get married, some would rather define their own unique agreement and limit government control.

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