Domestic partners can face certain legal issues just like legally married couples. They may not be entitled to the same legal protections as same sex couples. While the dissolution of a domestic partnership is the same as a divorce and the dissolution will return the partners to the status they were before they formed the domestic partnership. Once the domestic partnership is dissolved, the rights and obligations of the domestic partnership will cease. Also domestic partnership is not legally recognized by all states and so they can be problems when it comes to dealing with the property, children and debt. If you want to end your domestic partnership, seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.
Domestic Partnership Laws
In states that recognize domestic partnerships, the partners in a domestic partnership generally enjoy the same legal rights as married couples. The partners enjoy various benefits such as life insurance, health insurance, death benefits, tax benefits and much more. The law also allows domestic partners to terminate their relationship by dissolving the domestic partnership. The domestic partnership agreement can provide the process of dissolving the domestic partnership. If the domestic partnership was not legalized or the agreement does not specify what happens in case of dissolution, the courts have to determine the issues. Some states recognize only domestic partnership formed in their state and therefore may not recognize domestic partnerships formed in other states.
Any property acquired by either party before the domestic partnership will continue to remain the separate property of the partner and will not be subject to division on the dissolution of the domestic partnership. The same goes for gifts and inheritance received by any partner prior to or during the domestic partnership. Other property will be divided in one of the following ways depending on the nature of the property and how long the partners have been in the domestic relationship:
• Proportionate to the equity interest
• Treat the parties as joint tenants and partition the property
When a domestic partnership is terminated, one partner may be ordered to pay support to the other. This is known as maintenance. When determining maintenance, the court will consider many factors including:
• The term of the domestic partnership
• Finances of the partners and the ability to pay
• The lifestyle maintained during the partnership
• Health and age of the partner seeking maintenance
For example, if one partner remained at home to take care of the children during the domestic partnership, the court will generally award him or her maintenance.
No two domestic partnerships are the same. The court will consider each case based on its individual circumstances.
Child Custody and Support
If there are children from the domestic partnership, the court will consider various factors to decide the issues of child custody and support. The court will decide:
• with whom the children will live for most of the time or the children will spend their time equally with both partners.
• if one partner has custody of the children, the other will have visiting rights.
• who takes decisions that will affect the children’s welfare such as education, religion and health care.
• how future disagreements on the children must be resolved.
Just like married couples, domestic partners can create their own parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval.
Generally a domestic partnership can be terminated automatically in one of the follow ways:
• Notice of termination by one partner
• Death of a partner
• Marriage of a partner
• One partner moves into another residence without the other
There are two ways of terminating a domestic partnership – petitioning the court or filing a termination with the county clerk’s office or the state Secretary of State. If there isn’t much debt or children from the domestic partnership then it is easier to terminate the relationship by filing the termination with the county clerk’s office but if there are complex issues involved, you will have to petition the court.
Terminating a domestic partnership is complex especially if there is property, debts and children involved. Seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.