Domestic Partnership

September 1, 2011

Domestic partnership is a description of a status of an intimate relationship between two people. Domestic partnership that can also be called a civil union is often used by same-sex couples who cannot obtain a marriage license due to gender restrictions in state laws. Such partnerships are increasingly being recognized by employers, local governments, one state, and some countries outside the United States. The processes for establishing such a relationship vary.

Domestic partnerships allow couples to enjoy some benefits of marriage. For example, an employer that recognizes domestic partnerships will likely cover both the employee and the partner in a group health insurance plan. Civil unions also provide recognition of the status of the relationship and the partners’ commitment to each other.

Domestic partnerships do not provide all the benefits associated with marriage and the types of benefits associated with such unions may vary from location to location. Because of this, domestic partners may wish to pursue other methods to establish other legal connections. Wills can distribute property to partners and their families. Couples can give each other a “power of attorney” that allows one person to make important decisions about health care or finances if the other is unable to do so. Establishing legal ties to a child through what is often called “second parent adoption” may be an option in some states.

SEE ALSO: Child custody, Cohabitation, Divorce, Marital status

Suggested Reading

  • Curry, H., et al. (1999). A legal guide for lesbian and gay couples.
  • Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press. Ihara, T. L., & Warner, R. (1997). The living together kit: A legal guide for unmarried couples. Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press. Samuelson, E. (1997). The unmarried couple’s legal survival guide.
  • Your rights and responsibilities. Secaucus, NJ: Carol. Stanley, J. (1999). Unmarried parents’ rights. Naperville, IL: Sphinx.

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