What’s a domestic partnership and why is it used?

If you’re not married but have a domestic partnership, you’re entitled to some of the same protections those who are married receive. In some ways, this kind of partnership is not equal to marriage, though, and it’s important to know if you decide to end your relationship. Your attorney can help you move forward with separation documents in a divorce-like situation, and he or she can also help you understand if a domestic partnership or marriage is best for your situation.

How does the law define a domestic partnership? A domestic partnership takes place when two people register at a courthouse or governmental office to state they are in a serious relationship. They may have to appear in person at the agency and will likely need to submit an application and pay a fee.

Do domestic partnerships have benefits?

Yes. Domestic partners have some of the same benefits that those in marriages receive. For instance, if your partner falls ill, you can take family leave from work. You’ll have the right to bereavement leave, and you have visitation rights at hospitals and jails. You can also be added to family health insurance policies.

Why are domestic partnerships used?

Previously, when same-sex marriage was not legal, domestic partnerships were an alternative that same-sex couples could use to protect themselves and their partners. Today, same-sex couples don’t have to use a domestic partnership and can obtain a marriage license instead. Domestic partnerships weren’t only used by same-sex couples, despite them being the most common applicants. Those who don’t believe in a traditional marriage may opt for a domestic partnership instead, for example.

Source: FindLaw, “What is a Domestic Partnership?,” accessed Dec. 29, 2015