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What does domestic partnership mean?

A domestic partnership is, essentially, an alternative to marriage for couples in a committed relationship. It allows you to define your relationship status. A domestic partnership will entitle you and your partner to some of the same benefits that a married couple enjoys, provided you qualify and your state, county, or municipality recognizes them.

Domestic partnerships may allow you to add your partner to your health insurance plan, but you’ll likely need to provide proof of commitment as required by a government or private entity, such as a shared bank account. This is something that’s unique to a domestic partnership when compared to marriage, which does not require you to show any proof of commitment aside from a marriage certificate.

You can use a Domestic Partnership Agreement to outline the financial, property, health, and medical details of your relationship.

What is the difference between domestic partnerships and marriage?

Domestic partnerships may provide you with some of the benefits that married couples receive, but there are still many differences between this partnership and a marriage. Marriages generally come with more benefits and protections than a domestic partnership does.

  • Marriages are recognized in all states (and in most other countries), but domestic partnerships won’t be recognized in most states in the U.S.
  • Domestic partners are not considered “family” by law, although there are some workplaces and companies that will qualify domestic partners for these same rights. Even if a domestic partnership isn’t recognized in your state, your employer may allow your partner to receive employer benefits.
  • Because domestic partnerships aren’t recognized on the federal level, you can’t petition for a non-citizen partner like a married couple can.
  • Married couples automatically inherit each other’s assets upon death, and these assets are inherited without any taxes incurred. However, this is not the case for domestic partners. You can inherit your partner’s assets through a will, but you’ll be subject to taxes.

Why would I choose domestic partnership over marriage?

Since domestic partnerships are not federally recognized, and not recognized in most states, you might wonder why anyone would choose to register as domestic partners rather than get married. There aren’t many benefits afforded to domestic partners that aren’t also afforded to married couples. In fact, there are generally more benefits for married couples than domestic partners. However, every relationship is different. If marriage is off the table as an option, but a couple in a committed relationship is able to register as domestic partners and wishes to enjoy the benefits of doing so, then making that choice makes perfect sense.

It’s important to remember that if you enter into a domestic partnership, your partnership may not be recognized when crossing state borders or traveling in another country. For this reason, you might want to consult with a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice regarding a domestic partnership and the qualifications and benefits that apply to your specific situation.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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