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Domestic Partnership

A number of jurisdictions nationwide have passed laws granting certain legal rights for domestic partnerships. A domestic partnership is generally defined as a legally sanctioned relationship between an unmarried couple (different- or same-sex) that lives together and shares a domestic life.

Couples wishing to enter into a domestic partnership are usually required to formally declare their commitment through a legal registration. Since laws governing domestic partnerships are not uniform, the legal benefits the partners are entitled to will vary according to jurisdiction.

Some jurisdictions provide domestic partnerships with many of the same rights, protections, and benefits typically reserved for married couples. However, they usually also subject those in domestic partnerships to the same responsibilities as legal spouses.

The following is a list of some of the potential rights, responsibilities, and characteristics of domestic partnerships . It is important to remember that these may vary by state and jurisdiction :

•  Property rights and obligations including joint ownership of property acquired during the partnership and joint obligation for debts incurred.

•  Protection of children including the presumption of parenthood for children born during the partnership and judicial determination of custody and child support .

•  Death-related rights including ability to avoid probate of jointly owned property and protection against disinheritance by partner.

•  Employment rights and benefits including the right to a joint healthcare plan and to take unpaid leave to care for a sick partner.

•  Judicial and official rights including the privilege for confidential communications among partners and privilege not to be forced to testify against partner.

•  Termination of the partnership including the requirement to file court proceedings as well as rights and obligations regarding the division of property and other financial and custodial matters.

When a domestic partnership ends, the couple usually must file for dissolution in the family law court in the jurisdiction in which they reside. The domestic partnership may also be subject to laws regarding the division of property and/or spousal support .

Laws pertaining to domestic partnerships are often complex. If you are considering terminating your registered domestic partnership and/or have questions regarding your rights and obligations, you may wish to seek the advice of a qualified attorney who can help you understand the law and devise a possible plan of action.

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