Domestic partnerships: Similar, but not the same as, marriages

If you've heard of a domestic partnership, you may know that it means that a couple is living together, but beyond that aren't sure what legal protections it entails. A domestic partnership is a relationship between two people living together. They are not married, but they do obtain rights such as survivorship, hospital visitation and more.

Domestic partnerships were first created in the 1980s as a response to the difficulty same-sex couples had when trying to marry. Domestic partnerships aren't needed as often today thanks to the legalization of same-sex marriage, but some people do still choose them over marriage.

Those with a domestic partnership, also known as a civil union, obtain many of the same benefits as a married spouse, but the benefits are not identical. For instance, domestic partnerships may allow for the sharing of health insurance, death benefits, life insurance and tax benefits. People in a domestic partnership may also have sick and family leave for use if their partners become ill or there is an emergency.

While many people think a domestic partnership is the same as a marriage, it is not. Marriage is defined by each state separately, but domestic partnerships are not considered marriages by the government. Federally, couples may lose out on certain benefits as a result of not being married.

It can be hard to know where you stand in a domestic partnership, and it may make you question if you should get married instead. Your attorney can give you more information on how your life would change with a marriage over a domestic partnership.

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