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What is a domestic partnership?

A domestic partnership is a legal or personal relationship between two people who live together and share a common domestic life but are not married or in a civil union. Generally, domestic partnership confers almost the same legal rights as marriage. However, couples must qualify for recognition as domestic partners and the qualifications and benefits may differ from location to location.

Some states used domestic partnerships as a way to legally recognize same-sex relationships in the past, but the need has declined since federal recognition of same-sex marriages as equal to opposite-sex marriages in the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015.

What are the benefits of a domestic partnership?

The benefits that domestic partners receive are not necessarily the same as married couples, but many states offer benefits to domestic partners that are similar to spouses. These include matters like inheritance, guardianship, and health insurance. Several states require businesses to offer the same benefits to domestic partners as they would to spouses. These benefits can include insurance, bereavement, sick leave, and relocation. Health, dental, and vision insurance are the most commonly offered benefits.

You should check with the state, county, or municipality where you live to see if domestic partnership is recognized, and if so, what benefits you and your partner can receive.

Are domestic partnerships federally recognized?

Domestic partnerships are not federally recognized, but there are a few states that recognize them, along with a myriad of local government entities, private companies, and educational institutions. Depending on where you’re located or where you work, you may be entitled to some legal protection if you are in a domestic partnership.

Which states recognize domestic partnerships?

The states of California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Nevada, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington all recognize domestic partnerships, as well as the District of Columbia. The states of Colorado, Illinois, and Hawaii similarly recognize “civil unions,” which are basically the same as domestic partnerships in that they are legally recognized unions with similar rights as those afforded to married couples.

Keep in mind, however, that the requirements for domestic partnerships and civil unions differ from state to state, and state laws can evolve and change over time. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of a domestic partnership or wonder about your rights should you move to a different state, county, or city, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice. If you are in a committed relationship, but not married or in a civil union, and are looking to formalize the legal details of your lives together, consider a Domestic Partnership Agreement. This agreement covers finances, property, health and medical decisions, and more.

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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