As a Professional Mediator, I have found that there is a real need to discuss and educate clients on information that they need to know a relative to Domestic Partnerships. Domestic Partnerships can apply to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples who may qualify in the state of New Jersey based on the DPA (Domestic Partnership Act).
There is a lot of information to cover on this topic, so I have segmented the blog into two parts. In Part I, I will discuss eligibility requirements and “prenuptial-like” scenarios to consider, as you would if you were entering into a marriage. I will also be discussing the parameters for the termination of a domestic partnership in this segment.
In Part II of the series, I will cover the many Benefits and the Risks of Domestic Partnership such as the complexities of Social Security, Medicare, and other services. This segment will soon be posted, so stay tuned.
Domestic Partnership – Part I
Eligibility and Registering For Domestic Partnership in the State of New Jersey
The New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) is a state law that grants couples certain basic rights, such as the right to make health care decisions and to receive tax exemptions. The law applies only to same-sex and opposite-sex couples who qualify based on the DPA requirements. Each partner has the duty to be responsible for the basic living expenses of the other while the domestic partnership is still ongoing. Domestic partners can agree to be responsible for each other in additional ways that are beyond what is required by the DPA. In order to be clear about these responsibilities, they should be written into a contract and signed by both parties. For instance, domestic partners can agree that, if they separate and terminate their partnership, they will split all of the partnership property and debts equally. Or they can decide that a partner who has been working will be responsible to pay support to a partner who remained at home taking care of children. In the event that the domestic partnership is terminated, palimony may be available for ongoing support if the domestic partners include such terms in a written agreement or if such an agreement can be implied from the actions of the partners, both during and before the domestic partnership was entered.
The grounds for terminating (ending) a domestic partnership in New Jersey are the same as those for divorce in New Jersey:
- Sexual relations with someone outside the domestic partnership
- Desertion for 12 months
- Extreme cruelty
- Separation for 18 months
- Habitual substance abuse for 12 months
- Mental illness (institutionalization for 24 months)
- Imprisonment for 18 months
A domestic partnership automatically terminates if the couple enters a marriage or civil union with each other. The procedure for terminating a domestic partnership in New Jersey is similar to the procedure for divorce. Termination can include issues of child custody, child support, temporary support pending the termination, palimony and division of property and debts.
Different states have different laws recognizing legal partnerships or unions between people other than marriage. According to an Attorney General Formal Opinion 07-03, If one enters into a domestic partnership, Civil Union, or reciprocal beneficiary relationship in another state, that partnership will be valid in New Jersey as long as it is valid according to the laws of the state where it was initially created, in much the same way that a marriage that is entered into in a legally valid manner in another state is held to be valid in New Jersey. The opinion states that a legal same-sex marriage from another jurisdiction (such as Canada or Massachusetts) will be recognized as a civil union.