More and more couples than ever before are saying "no" to the concept of marriage and simply living together. Just because you didn't go the legal route does not mean you have no rights, though what rights you do have varies depending on where in the U.S. you live. Read on to learn more about what you can expect in the form of legal protections if you are involved in a domestic relationship without marriage.
States and areas that recognize domestic partnership agreements: If you reside in one of the below states or cities, you have the right to create a legally-binding agreement with your significant other that addresses nearly anything a prenuptial agreement would for married couples. This agreement can be done at any time, even after you are living together, but the sooner the better. Speak to a family law attorney for assistance, but be prepared to include issues relating to debts and property. In general, only financial issues should be addressed in a domestic partnership agreement, just as with prenuptial agreements. If you are fortunate enough to cohabit in the following states, you can expect legal recognition of your relationship.
- New Jersey
- Washington D.C.
- New York City
- San Francisco
Benefits and protections available for couples in these locations:
- Coverage by your partner's health insurance.
- Eligibility to use the Family and Medical Leave Act to take time off from work for a sick relative or the birth (or adoption) of a child.
- Ability to use various government assistance benefits, such as food stamps and housing help.
- Next of kin status for medical purposes (such as visiting privileges in a hospital).
- Ability to file jointly for state taxes; federal law does not yet recognize domestic partner relationship status for the filing of federal taxes, but you can use it for state tax filing in the above locations.
Benefits for all: If you don't live in one of the above places, take heart. Some major corporations offer domestic partners some very valuable benefits, regardless of location. Depending on the employer, you may find such perks as health insurance, life insurance and more available to those who can show proof of the relationship by use of joint mortgages, lease agreements, utility bills, joint debts, and more.
To get more information about forming your own domestic partnership agreement and to learn about the rights and protections available in your location, speak to a family law attorney.