Not Tying The Knot? What To Know About Domestic Partnerships

If you've decided to cohabitate instead of marry, you are in good company. Living together can present couples with an opportunity to get to know one another better before making it legal, but many couples consider their arrangement more or less permanent and are content with the situation as it is. While this trend seems to be burgeoning, few couples seem to realize the legal ramifications and issues that could result from not having a legal standing. Read on for more information about domestic partnerships.

States that legally recognize domestic partnerships

In some locations, couples who meet the requirements for domestic partnerships enjoy some of the same benefits as those who are legally married. Those states and cities include:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • New York City
  • San Francisco

Domestic partnership benefits

If you and your partner reside in one of the above locations, you can look forward to getting the following benefits and legal status.

1. The ability to qualify for health insurance coverage from your partner's employer.

2. Coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

3. Eligibility for several types of government aid as a couple, such as low-cost housing help and food stamps.

4. Ability to use "married filing jointly" as a tax filing status, which normally results in a lower tax burden.

5. Next of kin or family member status for hospital visiting status.

Benefits available in all locations

Even if you do not live in one of the above named locations, you may still be able to enjoy some domestic partnership benefits if one of you works for certain major corporations. Upon showing proof of your relationship (such as lease agreements or utility bills), you may be able to cover your partner with health insurance and other benefits that are normally reserved for married couples.

To give your partner rights to your property, you can alter a real estate deed by adding your partner's name to the deed.

Legal parental rights can be assigned by legally adopting a minor child from a previous relationship -- if the other parent agrees. This action will ensure that you have custody and visitation rights in the event you and your partner split up.

Be sure to update your will to include provisions that specifically address your domestic partner. In most states, domestic partners do not enjoy the same rights as a spouse when it comes to inheriting property.

Be sure to speak to a family law firm about the formation of a domestic partnership agreement, which can help spell out issues that deal with debt, property ownership, who gets the family pet, etc. While not legally binding, such agreements could carry enough weight to sway a judge if a legal case should arise.