What Is a Domestic Partnership Agreement?

Posted on 08/23/2010
In Family Law



When two partners live and share a life together but aren’t joined together by a civil union or marriage, they are involved in a domestic partnership.

In various states and countries around the world, partners can enter into a domestic partnership agreement. By registering a domestic partnership agreement, partners can gain many of the same rights as married couples.

Why Is a Domestic Partnership Agreement Important?

A domestic partnership agreement works kind of like a prenuptial agreement for couples who are not planning to marry. It determines the rights and responsibilities of the couple.

A domestic partnership agreement may include:

  • Who is responsible for household chores
  • The division of property and belongings in case of dissolution
  • How to share income
  • Protection from each other’s debts
  • How to handle inheritances
  • Protection for children or other dependents

Are Domestic Partnership Agreements Only for Same-Sex Couples?

When many people consider terms like “domestic partnership,” they think it applies only to same-sex couples who are not allowed to marry in many states and countries around the world.

However, while some jurisdictions have introduced the idea of a domestic partnership agreement to recognize same-sex unions, domestic partnership agreements also can be registered by heterosexual couples.

States That Allow Domestic Partnership Agreements

Not every state allows a couple to register a domestic partnership agreement. California paved the way for many states, with gay rights activists coining the term “domestic partnership” in 1979. California went on to become one of the first US states to allow both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to obtain the same rights as married couples through registered domestic partnership agreements.

Besides California, the following states accept registered domestic partnership agreements:

  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Wisconsin

Additionally, domestic partnership agreements are accepted in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Cleveland, Ohio, but only in those cities alone. The states of Hawaii and New Jersey allow couples to enter into civil unions, which are nearly identical to marriage in all but the title.

International Acceptance of Domestic Partnership Agreements

Many countries in Europe offer couples the opportunity to enter into civil unions. Croatia, Hungary and Portugal have domestic partnerships and accept registered domestic partnership agreements.

All of New Zealand allows civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples; however, New Zealand couples joined in a civil union are not allowed to adopt children.

Civil unions between same-sex and opposite-sex couples are allowed in a few jurisdictions in Argentina and Venezuela.

All states in Australia allow any couple to enter into “a registered or civil partnership.”

What If the Government Doesn’t Allow Domestic Partnership Agreements?

If the government of your state or country does not allow you to register a domestic partnership agreement, consider creating one anyway. While legal documents can oftentimes feel very impersonal, drawing up a domestic partnership agreement can give you and your partner a better understanding of the responsibilities you share together.


3 Responses to “What Is a Domestic Partnership Agreement?”

  1. jjbilow Says:

    The national company I work for in Minnesota only allows same sex domestic partnerships and married people to get partner benefit coverage. What about unmarried heterosexual domesic partnerships? Isn’t this discriminating?

  2. beverly cobbs Says:

    Do your domestic partners child become your step child

  3. Kaytie at Legal Language Says:

    Hi Beverly,

    This varies depending on which state you live in. I suggest you go to your state government’s website for more information.

    Thanks for reading!
    Kaytie at Legal Language

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