Domestic Partnership

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Domestic Partnership

A Brief Introduction About the Domestic Partnership Agreement

What is a domestic partnership?

The definition of domestic partnership is a couple who are not married but want to share responsibilities, especially financial obligations.

What is a registered domestic partnership?

A registered domestic partnership is one where the partnership is filed in the concerned state or city. Some of the partnerships are similar to corporate agreements, so the application has to be made to the department managing business agreements. In other states, you need to apply to the country clerk or recorder.

Application is also necessary to have statewide recognition through the Domestic Partners Registry.

When it comes to domestic partnerships vs. marriage, you face more regulation from the government when it comes to your relationship in a marriage. With this agreement, you have less government control and can have your own unique arrangement.

Before one can enter into such a partnership, you are required to file an affidavit of domestic partnership. The affidavit will state that neither party is married, both are over the age of 18, both are competent to consent contract mentally, and that they have no other domestic partner than each other.

Who Takes the Domestic Partnership Agreement? – People involved

A domestic partnership agreement is entered into by two individuals who want to live together but not as a married couple. You should enter into this agreement if you want a formal financial agreement with each other, visitation rights in hospital and jail, mutual access to each other’s medical records and consent for treatment, legal rights to handle funeral and burial services, or provide medical benefits to each other.

The major part of such partnerships defines the financial aspect of the relationship about ownership of property, handling of mutually-owned property, and liabilities. It involves the regular financial obligations and the plan of action in case of the dissolution of the partnership.

Purpose of the Domestic Partnership Agreement – Why Do You Need It?

A domestic partnership is entered into by a couple who are in a ‘live together’ relationship and want legal protection from the state.

The purpose of the agreement is to define the rights and responsibilities of the couple. You can define the financial arrangements between the couple such as property-related matters, management of your property as well as handling debt obligations. The agreement also has provisions for the course of action in the case of the death of a partner.

When you enter into this agreement, you will be entitled to visit your partner in hospital or jail, have access to your partner’s medical information, performing burial services, and providing medical benefits.

Couples get into this agreement because they want less government intervention in their relationship and want to establish their own unique arrangement. In the case of a marriage license, the government defines the legal relationship, and you have less say in the matter.

When you move from one state to another, you would have to create a fresh agreement as the other state might not have the current domestic partnership laws.

Important documents, such as medical release documents, need to be easily accessible when you are traveling.

Though these agreements are recognized by local and state governments, the federal government does not recognize them.

Contents of the Domestic Partnership Agreement – Inclusions

A domestic partnership agreement defines the responsibilities of a couple who are not legally married but are committed enough to live together. While a major portion of the agreement deals with the financial aspects of a relationship like property ownership and handling of mutually-owned property and debt obligations, there are other aspects that are covered by this agreement.

Here are the contents of the agreement:

  • Names of the parties to the agreement: The names and identification proof provided by the parties to the agreement
  • Declaration by both parties: There has to be a declaration of domestic partnership where both parties state that they are over 18 years old, mentally capable of entering this contract and that neither has been put through any physical or mental duress. They also need to declare that neither are married, separated, or have a similar relationship with someone else.
  • Claim to assets of the other party: All assets owned and liabilities owed by each party prior to this agreement remains that party’s responsibility unless passed through written consent to the other party
  • Income earned: The income earned during the relationship shall be kept in a separate bank account of the partner who earned it
  • Termination: The agreement can be terminated by any of the parties after giving a written notice two weeks in advance
  • The legality of contract: If a particular clause is found to be illegal in the contract by the court, the remaining part of the contract shall continue to be valid
  • Property purchased during the relationship: There shall be equal distribution of property purchased during the relationship in case of termination of the contract

How to Draft the Domestic Partnership Agreement?

 Points to consider while preparing the agreement

  • Relationship between parties: The names of the parties and the relationship between them
  • The effective date of the agreement: The date on which the agreement comes into force
  • Declaration by parties: Both parties need to declare that they are at least 18 years of age, are legally competent to enter into a contract, and have voluntarily entered this agreement. They also need to state that they are not in a similar relationship with anyone at the time of entering into this partnership
  • Assets owned before partnership: Assets owned by either party before this relationship will not be shared unless specifically mentioned through proper written consent
  • Income earned during the partnership: This shall be kept in separate bank accounts of the respective parties
  • Payment of rent or utilities: A joint bank account shall be opened for such purposes
  • Contract termination: The contract can be terminated by a specific number of week’s notice
  • Property or assets bought during the partnership: Any property or asset bought during the partnership will be divided equally when this contract is terminated
  • The challenge regarding legality: If the court challenges a clause in this contract, the remaining clauses will remain legally valid.

Negotiation Strategy

Since a domestic partnership is entered into by a couple living together and hence know each other well, it is better to negotiate the terms of the agreement before they enter into a partnership. It is better to mutually discuss the manner of distribution of financial and other responsibilities and then sign the contract.

Benefits & Drawbacks of the Domestic Partnership Agreement

The Benefits of Having a Domestic Partnership Agreement:

  • The domestic partnership benefits a living together couple by protecting them from the state. The relationship is recognized by both local and state laws. The parties can define the kind of relationship they want, and there is minimal interference from the government
  • Financial arrangements: The financial responsibilities like property related matters, managing of the property as well as handling of financial liabilities. The distribution of income during the partnership as well as assets owned before and during the partnership is also mentioned
  • Rights of the parties: Each party has visitation rights for the hospital or jail, right to access the medical records of the other party and provide consent for medical treatment as well as perform the last rites of the other partner

The Drawback of Having a Domestic Partnership Agreement:

  • Notice before termination: You cannot walk out of such partnerships but need to serve an advance notice of a given number of days in writing requesting termination of the partnership where the reasons will need to be clearly stated
  • Harassment by family: In case of any kind of medical emergency and unfortunate demise of a partner, the other partner may have to face legal problems with the family of the partner.

[Also Read: Cohabitation agreement]

What Happens In Case of Violation?

A domestic partnership gives legal status to the relationship of a live-in couple. At the time of entering the partnership, both parties might be committed to a long-term relationship.

This partnership gives both parties a lot of rights and responsibilities with regard to financial and other aspects of each other’s lives. It could be the handling of property, expenses as well as visitation rights to see each other in a hospital or jail.

When one of the partners violates a clause in the agreement, the other partner has the right to take him or her to court and demand adequate compensation. The partner could also terminate the relationship without giving any notice.

In case of violation of both parties, the court of law in the state where the agreement was signed declares the agreement null and void.

If a statement made by any of the parties with respect to their age or similar relationship with someone else is found to be false or misleading, then the contract is no longer valid.

It is hence important for both parties to decide the terms and conditions of the agreement and have mutual consent regarding the same so as to avoid any disputes or violations of the contract.

When a live-in couple wants to legalize their relationship, it is advisable for them to enter into a domestic partnership agreement (1).

The agreement gives them a lot of flexibility compared to conventional marriage. There is less government control when it comes to their relationship, which can be decided according to their convenience.

The partnership also allows them to manage each other properties, share expenses, visit each other if one is in jail or in the hospital, access each other’s medical records, and provide consent in a medical situation(2).

The partnership gives them the option to end the relationship by providing a certain number of day’s notice after assigning a valid reason.

Both parties to the agreement need to be truly committed to making the partnership work. If any statement made by either partner is found to be false or misleading, then the state will declare the contract null and void.

If both partners decide to follow the partnership properly, both could derive the benefits of it.