Like civil unions, domestic partnerships extend benefits, rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples. Counties, cities, states and even corporate employers may extend domestic partnership benefits to both same-and opposite-sex couples. States with domestic partnership registries include Alaska, California, Hawaii (Reciprocal Benefits), Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. The benefits of a domestic partnership vary from state to state but may include: access to family health insurance plans, spousal visitation rights in hospitals and jails, and the ability to use annual or unpaid leave in order to perform specific tasks concerning one’s domestic partner or the partner’s dependents. Domestic partnerships generally do not affect matters relating to immigration, federal taxes or child custody.
To register a domestic partnership both partners must have reached the age of majority (usually 18), be mentally competent, be unmarried or unengaged in another domestic partnership or civil union, and must cohabitate or share a permanent residence. Additional considerations may require that the domestic relationship between partners is exclusive, committed and entails financial interdependence.
How to Apply for a Domestic Partnership
Statements of Domestic Partnership, like applications for marriage licenses, are typically registered with a state by means of a county clerk’s or registrar’s office. Often, they take shape as affidavits or legally binding, sworn statements. Applicants need not necessarily apply in person, but some must obtain notarization for their application from a qualified official known as a Notary Public. Many Domestic Partners Registry forms can be found online at state government websites. Information collected typically includes names, signatures, dates of birth and mailing address of the parties filing for domestic partnership benefits. Other information to which the applicants attest by signing their names pertains to the partners’ shared residency, age of majority status, capacity to give consent, consent to jurisdictional rules, and status as persons who are not forbidden by marriage or blood tie or other legal reason from forming a domestic partnership. Filing entails a fee of varying amounts.
Dissolving a Domestic Partnership
The rules for dissolving a domestic partnership widely vary. In California, if a domestic partnership lasts for more than five years, produced children, or fails to meet certain requirements pertaining to property and debts, then a couple must get a standard divorce. Otherwise, petitioning the Secretary or State or municipal office will dissolve the partnership. In the District of Columbia, termination results when the conditions of the domestic partnership are no longer met for one of the following reasons: partners file for termination, one partner dies, one partner marries someone else, or one partner abandons either the partner or their mutual residence. In New Jersey, one partner must petition the Superior Court for dissolution of the partnership, which initiates a process very similar to divorce.