What is a Domestic Partnership?

Domestic partnerships are legally formalized relationships that carry similar legal protections as marriage. The specifics of domestic partnerships vary by state. It was originally instituted to protect same-sex couples, but some states make domestic partnerships accessible to all cohabitating couples or cohabitating seniors.

Comparing Pros and Cons: What is a Domestic Partnership in NJ?

Domestic partnership in New Jersey is regulated by the 2004 Domestic Partnership Act, amended in 2007.

Only non-related, non-married people whether they are the opposite sex or the same sex, aged 62 and older are now able to enter into a domestic partnership. Same-sex couples who formed their domestic partnership before February of 2007 and couples who have entered domestic partnerships with similar rights and obligations outside of New Jersey may continue to operate under the domestic partnership framework.

Pros of a Domestic Partnership in NJ

Domestic partnerships carry much of the same legal and economic incentives as marriage. Domestic partners can be considered next-of-kin for medical decisions, visit each other in the hospital, and, in some cases, be covered under the same dental and medical insurance.

This formalized union comes with tax benefits. You can file your qualified domestic partner as a dependent and receive a $1,000 tax exemption in the State of New Jersey. You’ll also qualify for state inheritance tax exemption for transfers from one member to another by way of a will, contract, or survivorship.

If you are a public employee in the State of New Jersey, your domestic partner and his or her children may be added to your employee health insurance and a domestic partner is also entitled to state pension and retirement benefits.

Cons of a Domestic Partnership in NJ

Entering a domestic partnership in NJ is accessible to a relatively small group of people, making a civil union or marriage the only option for many couples in the state.

Civil unions and marriages carry more legal and social weight than domestic partnerships, which exist mainly to offer financial benefits to couples.

Because domestic partnerships are state-operated, your partnership status may not be recognized by other states or countries in the way that marriage is. Domestic partnership isn’t federally regulated, so you’ll have to file separate tax returns, and you won’t be eligible for your partners’ social security benefits.

Benefits Unique to Marriage

Marriage is federally recognized and comes with benefits, including the choice to change your last name, sponsor your spouse’s immigration, and receive social security, pension, and veteran benefits merited by your spouse.

Marriage is also an almost globally-recognized institution, making the importance of married couples’ relationships more readily recognized.

How to File a Domestic Partnership

You must legally formalize a domestic partnership to be eligible for its financial benefits. Both members must agree to be responsible for each other’s wellbeing and basic living expenses, which is often evinced by joint financial accounts or property ownership. In addition, both people must share a common residence, both must be 62 years of age or older, neither person can be married or in an civil union currently, neither person can have terminated another domestic partnership in the last 180 days unless the previous partner has passed away, both people must not be legally related to each other by blood, adoption or marriage closer than the fourth degree (third cousins or closer) and both must choose to share their lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring.

You can jointly file an affidavit of domestic partnership with your local registrar of any municipality in New Jersey, and the claim is handled by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services’ Office of Vital Statistics.

Couples who chose to marry or enter a civil union with each other end their domestic partnership at that point.

Need More Information?

Now that you have the answer to “what is a domestic partnership,” you might better understand the choice of marriage vs. domestic partnership.

If you’re still wondering if domestic partnership or marriage is right for you, contact the family law experts at Lyons and Associates, P.C. Call us at (908) 575-9777 for a free consultation to discuss your needs.