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A Domestic Partnership Agreement is a document used by a couple who would like to make a contract regarding the particulars of their long-term relationship without getting legally married. This Agreement isn't used by a couple that is just starting their relationship but can be used by any couple in a long-term relationship, often living together, sharing property, and/or contemplating having children together. It joins the Parties' lives together legally and/or contractually without them having to get a legal marriage. This covers much of the same territory as a Prenuptial Agreement, but, unlike a Prenuptial Agreement, it is not made with the intention of the Parties becoming legally married in the near future.
Initially created before the legalization of same sex-marriage, Domestic Partnerships continue to be used to provide benefits for unmarried couples, both gay and straight. Depending on the state, a Domestic Partnership can allow the Parties to visit each other in the hospital, provide legal rights to manage medical information or funeral services, and confer medical benefits from one partner to another. By using a Domestic Agreement, a couple can define their marriage in a way that makes sense for them. Though many choose to get married, a Domestic Agreement is a good option for couples who would like to limit government control of their relationship while providing structure and making a formal record of their agreements regarding the relationship.
Creating a Domestic Partnership Agreement is not always necessary to enter into a Domestic Partnership. For example, some cities and states have formalized domestic partnership registries that have their own requirements to register, separate and apart from the creation of a Domestic Partnership Agreement. However, this Agreement can be especially useful for couples living in a city or state that does not have formal laws or registries related to Domestic Partnerships. For couples in this situation. using this Agreement makes them contractually bound to each other and obligated to follow through on the decisions about their relationship that they include in their Domestic Partnership Agreement. Even for couples living in states that more formally recognize this sort of relationship without requiring a Domestic Partnership Agreement, this document can be used to clarify the parameters of the relationship and specific agreements made.
Regulations about who can enter into a Domestic Partnership vary from state to state. However, common requirements includes both Parties being over the age of 18, the Parties living together and/or in a committed relationship for a specific length of time, most often six months to a year, the Parties not being legally married or in another Domestic Partnership Agreement, and the Parties having proof of their committed relationship such as shared bills, lease agreements, or state IDs listing the same address.
How to use this document
In order to complete a Domestic Partnership Agreement, the Parties should work together to disclose their assets to each other, decide how they would like to outline their financial obligations, and make arrangements should the relationship end. A Domestic Partnership Agreement covers several major areas as follows:
1. Property: The Agreement describes all of the property currently owned by the Parties and allows them to dictate how they would like to divide their shared property if they decide to dissolve the domestic partnership. The Parties can specify what, if anything, will be considered shared property subject to division. For example, couples often decide that the property they acquired separately before the relationship shall remain separate property not subject to division after the relationship ends. This consideration is especially important if either of the Parties has inherited property or has a great deal of assets.
2. Debts: This Agreement allows the Parties to describe any debts that they are bringing to the partnership. The Parties must decide whether debt acquired before the start of the domestic partnership shall remain separately owed by the Party who originally incurred it or whether it becomes shared debt owed by both of the Parties. This section also gives the Parties the chance to describe how responsibility for shared debt will be divided if the Parties decide to dissolve the partnership.
3. Shared Residence: If the Parties plan to live together after the start of the partnership, this section of the Agreement allows them to outline matters related to cohabitation, such as alterations of already existing leases or property deeds, payment of expenses related to maintenance of the shared residence, and responsibility for shared living expenses. There are many different ways for a couple to manage their finances together, whether they maintain separate bank accounts and each take on different bills or if they have a joint bank account that they both contribute to. This Agreement includes some of the most common arrangements as options but also allows the Parties to specify their own unique arrangements.
4. Children: If one or both of the Parties has children from a prior relationship, they can specify that in this section. This portion of the agreement allows the Parties to dictate whether they plan to provide a home and reasonable support for each other's children from a prior relationship without creating an obligation to continue that support should the relationship end. This section also allows the Parties to list any children they have had together and includes custody arrangements should the Parties dissolve the partnership.
Once the Parties complete the Agreement, they can each sign and date the agreement. There is also space for them to include two witnesses to them signing and then have the witnesses sign the document as well. Filing of a Domestic Partnership varies greatly by area. However, in many places, the Agreement can be filed with a state or city agency. Depending on the area, the Agreement might require an application with a county clerk, signing up to be included in a Domestic Partners Registry for state-wide registration, or applying with a city or state department that controls business agreements.
Domestic Partnerships are not formally recognized by the federal government. However, these Partnerships are supported by state and local governments instead. As far as filing federal taxes, Domestic Partners do not receive the same tax benefits as legally married couples and may not file their taxes jointly. That being said, states and cities often confer many other benefits on couples in a Domestic Partnership such as the ability to share health insurance, serve as each other's next of kin in case of emergency, or make financial, medical, or funeral decisions for each other. Some local government agencies even provide a certificate or laminated card once a Domestic Partnership Agreement has been properly filed with their agency. In cities that offer domestic partnership registries, employers often use this registration for the purposes of determining employee eligibility for domestic partner benefits. Many states extend recognition of Domestic Partnership Agreements registered in other states. However, some states, particularly those without formal Domestic Partnership registries or laws, may not. When moving to another state, it may be required to create a new Agreement to be formally registered in the new state.
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