Many people know that domestic partnerships are similar to marriage and can apply to unmarried couples who are living together. Most registered domestic partners tended to be in same-sex relationships prior to the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, especially if they lived in a state that banned same-sex marriage. But it remains an option in a few states for partners (same- or opposite-sex) who live together and share a common domestic life. However, some states and cities that offer the arrangement require one of the individuals to be at least 62-years-old.
A domestic partnership is not identical to marriage, but it provides some of the same benefits. Some states refer to the institution as a "civil union," but the definitions vary from one city or state to the next. See FindLaw's Domestic Partners, Civil Unions, and Living Together sections for more information.
How to Register as Domestic Partners
Partners who want to register must declare that their relationship constitutes a serious relationship at a courthouse or other designated government office. For instance, District of Columbia residents seeking to register as domestic partners are required to appear in person at the D.C. Department of Health, submit a single application, and pay a fee. Also, they must provide documentation proving that they satisfy the registration requirements (such as being over the age of 18, unmarried, and sharing a permanent residence).
Domestic Partner Benefits
Domestic partners are entitled to some of the legal benefits of marriage, but not all. Some of the common benefits of domestic partnership include:
Domestic partner benefits vary, as you can see from the following examples:
Wal-Mart and other employers have been sued by employees in same-sex marriages (and labor rights organizations) who were denied certain benefits prior to the Obergefell decision. In addition, many employers are discontinuing benefits for registered domestic partners (typically with a grace period) in light of the marriage equality ruling.
See State Laws: Domestic Partnerships for more specific information about the benefits of domestic partnership in your area.
Learn More About Domestic Partnerships and Living Together: Call a Lawyer
No matter if you are planning to enter into a domestic partnership or terminate one, knowing the laws of your state -- as well as federal protection of same-sex unions -- is important. Understanding legal matters such as benefits, rights, and responsibilities that go along with this legal union isn't easy. Consider speaking with a family law attorney near you to learn more.