Domestic Partnership Benefits - FAQ - Zupnick Associates

(by Slava Darozhkin)

What is a Domestic Partnership?

“Domestic partner” was and remains the preferred term for many couples in the United States, since the tail end of the last century, when it was first used.

The status denotes a couple that is living together in an interpersonal relationship but are not married to each other or anyone else. Since there are no federal guidelines for what qualifies as a domestic partnership, the standards are set by the state and usually include shared financial responsibility and shared residence.

The term was coined because gay couples couldn’t get married but needed the benefits spouses receive. Unfortunately, now that same-sex marriage has been legalized, some states have dissolved the legitimacy of the status “domestic partners” despite citizens in their states still not wanting to be legally married, thereby resulting in those couples not receiving the same family health benefits as spouses.

California, Connecticut, District of Columbia (D.C.), Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington State still offer the distinction. Other states offer civil unions solely for those not looking to marry.

The most prominent benefits of filing for domestic partnership, if the couple chooses not to marry legally, are the subsequent rights the partners receive with each other, like death rights, inheritance rights, jail and hospital visitations, housing rights, parental rights, and adoption benefits, among others.

What Are Domestic Partner Benefits?

When considering family health insurance benefits, insurers include spouses and domestic partners as well, but the benefits vary by state. As stated above, domestic partners usually enjoy most rights married couples do, like visitation and inheritance rights, but for health insurance, domestic partners often also receive:

  • Health insurance

  • Life insurance

  • Death benefits

  • Sick and parental leave

  • Tax treatment

The areas most affected in difference between married spouse and domestic partner are federal-level benefit programs and federal tax treatments.

How To Use Domestic Partner Benefits

Now that we know what domestic partnerships are and what they qualify for, as far as health insurance goes, the question is, what should one file as? Domestic partnership? Civil union? Marriage?

Marriage is still either an archaic religious institution or an archaic legal institution and employees should not undertake the burden of ascribing to a statute they do not believe in or relate to. Civil unions are better than domestic partnerships only because of their more national recognition and integration with companies and government bodies across the country, but since same-sex marriage has been legalized federally, most states have replaced both or either their civil union and domestic partnership provisions, as mentioned above. 

Still, there’s a growing number of citizens not interested in the marriage institution at all but want to retain those benefits. The best option for those couples is to delve deeply into the laws of their state and see how to maneuver their family status best. 

Click on this link to see how each state provides benefits for partners.

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