Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, March 8, 2013

Guest Post by Jenna Smith: The Financial and Legal Facts Behind Domestic Partnership

The domestic partnership is something that most believe is limited to homosexual couples who live in states where gay marriage is not yet legal. It is a legal contract that makes people, for lack of a better term, “married” without them being able to/having to call themselves that.

Over the last few years, the domestic partnership has stopped being solely for homosexual couples and has been adopted by heterosexual couples as well, effectively taking the place of a “common law” marriage.

There are lots of rumors swirling around the domestic partnership relationship. In the following paragraphs we are going to debunk some of the myths.

Myth #1 Any two people who live together are in a domestic partnership

No, you cannot simply declare yourself in a domestic partnership with your roommate because you want to mooch his health insurance. A domestic partnership is a true partnership. You are building a committed life with the other person, one that will look and feel just like a marriage but will simply have a different name. You might even need a so-called find lawyer direct service to help you ensure that your partnership is legal and binding before it is treated seriously by people outside of your social circle.

Myth #2 Only Gay People Can Have a Domestic Partnership

As we’ve already stated, domestic partnership protections have been extended to heterosexual couples now as well as homosexual couples. This is largely because most states have stopped recognizing “common law” marriages.

Myth #3 All States Recognize Domestic Partnerships

Not all states recognize the legality of a declared domestic partnership. Wyoming, for example, does not allow domestic partnerships either homosexual or heterosexual.

Myth #4 Domestic Partnerships Can’t Get “Divorced”

The common thought is that, if it isn’t a marriage, there cannot be a divorce. The truth is that the dissolution of a domestic partnership can be just as complicated and needs to be handled just as legally and intricately as a traditional marriage. There is the division of property and assets to consider and it is common for one or both parties to have to hire a lawyer or mediator to make sure all of the details are covered.

Myth #5 Domestic Partnerships Offer the same Benefits as Marriage

Many people believe that, to use one example, declaring yourself in a domestic partnership entitles you to one another’s health benefits. This isn’t true. It is largely up to the company to decide whether or not you qualify. Some companies still insist that domestic partnership benefits only apply to homosexual couples. Others refuse to recognize them at all. These are getting fewer and farther between, though, so there’s hope!

So, if you want to make sure that your relationship is recognized for the committed relationship it is but aren’t too keen on traditional marriage, a domestic partnership might be an option. In many cases, sadly, it is still the only option if your relationship is a homosexual one. Hopefully soon, both domestic partnerships and marriages will be universally recognized, respected and available regardless of the sexuality of your relationship.

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