Making It Legal: Domestic Partnerships

The legalization of gay marriage might have reduced the number of couples that relied on just living together, but there are still plenty of people that have no intention of tying the knot. There are no real requirements in any state regarding domestic partnerships but some locations do a better job than others of addressing the rights and protections of cohabitants. You can take action to legalize and solidify your relationship when it comes to financial matters, so read on to learn more about the issue of domestic partnership rights and agreements.

Do You Have Any Rights?

If you live in one of the above-referenced locations you can expect to be treated on nearly the same level as a legally married couple. Some important rights that affect finances and healthcare include:

1. Coverage by your domestic partner's insurance, either private or work-related.

2. Protections and privileges afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act gives employment protection to those who wish to take time off of work to care for a new addition to the family or the illness of a child.

3. The use of government-sponsored aid programs like food and housing assistance.

4. Next of kin status for medical needs such as visiting, notifications, and permissions.

5. Beneficiary status for employment or private life insurance and retirement plans.

6. In regard to state taxes, the couple can file as "married filing jointly" which might mean a better tax situation and savings. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for federal taxes, which still prohibits those in domestic partnerships from using that status.

Your Job May Provide Some Benefits

Beyond those particular locations referenced above, some major employers provide benefits and those benefits are valid no matter how your state or city treats domestic partnerships. Check with your human resources division for more information and you might be pleasantly surprised by what is offered. You should expect to show proof of your relationship by providing a lease, mortgage, utility bills, and/or a legal agreement. Commonly, you can expect perks like:

  • Group (employer-provided) health insurance
  • Beneficiary status for retirement plans and life insurance

Your Domestic Partnership Agreement

Regardless of how your location views your relationship, it's a smart idea to speak to a family law attorney about creating your own legal agreement. Your agreement should keep the focus on issues relating to finances and avoid topics like child custody, visitation, and estate matters. The states themselves like to have dominion over those subjects and to keep your agreement enforceable you should have an attorney review it. Lack of a marriage certificate should not be a bar to making it legal so see an attorney today. Family law attorneys like Marlene Dancer Adams can offer more information.