If you and your partner have lived together and portrayed yourself as though you are married, you may think you have entered into a Domestic Partnership or a Civil Union. Most states no longer recognize this type of domestic arrangement, but some still do. Illinois does not recognize Domestic Partnerships, but couples may have entered into a Civil Union.
At The Law Firm of Erin N Birt PC (Birt Family Law), our family law attorney in Illinois wants to make sure you understand your rights if you have lived together, have a child, and thought you had a Domestic Partnership. If you have a child, your relationship and partnership come with responsibilities, so you don't want to assume anything. We help couples and parents that previously entered into a Domestic Partnership, Civil Union, or cohabitated determine if separating is appropriate and, if so, what are the resulting custody rights and visitation rights. Contact us online or call us at (630) 891-2478 to learn more.
If you feel overwhelmed with your options and can't find your way in the court system or want to avoid hiring a divorce attorney, mediation can provide both parties with education, support, and guidance to end your domestic partnership. Book a joint mediation orientation call to learn more.
What is a Domestic Partnership?
In its broadest sense, a domestic partnership is formed when two people, who are not married and are not related to one another, live together and engage in a committed, romantic relationship. While it is often assumed that these couples must be in a same-sex relationship, each state has its own more specific rules as to what constitutes a domestic partnership, and many do recognize opposite-sex couples.
Requirements to be considered a domestic partnership vary by jurisdiction. In most cases, the legal arrangement is no longer relevant. If it does apply, however, to establish a domestic partnership, couples typically register with either their employer, state, or local government. There is usually an application that must be filed and a filing fee.
Domestic partnerships are quite similar to civil unions, it's just a different name to describe similar situations except for two key differences. Civil unions have historically involved more shared responsibilities than what has been attributed to domestic partnerships, and domestic partnerships often carry limited rights as those traditionally provided for in civil unions.
Benefits of a Domestic Partnership
There are benefits to being in a domestic partnership. In many jurisdictions, these partnerships offer some, if not all, the same benefits of a traditional marriage, including:
- Insurance Benefits: Many people enter into domestic partnerships due to the ability it affords one partner to extend the healthcare benefits they receive from their employer to the other partner. This includes medical, vision, and dental benefits. Life insurance may be included as well.
- Visitation Rights: In case one partner is incarcerated or hospitalized, a domestic partnership typically allows the other partner the right to visit them.
- Employer Benefits: Domestic partners are often capable of having additional benefits from their employer, including adoption benefits, and sick and bereavement leave.
These benefits are the driving force behind most people filing for domestic partnership status.
Challenges to a Domestic Partnership in DuPage County
Illinois does not recognize Domestic Partnerships.
While there are benefits to being in a domestic partnership, there are also some challenges in many jurisdictions, including:
- Tax Issues: Domestic partners are not allowed to file taxes jointly. Also, health insurance benefits extended by one partner's employer to the other partner may be considered taxable income.
- Inheritance Matters: If one partner dies intestate, the other partner may not automatically inherit from them. If there is a Will, and they inherit through that, they may have to pay an inheritance tax.
- Social Security: A domestic partnership does not provide one partner the ability to receive the other partner's Social Security benefits after death.
Remember, challenges related to domestic partnerships vary significantly by jurisdiction.
Termination of a Domestic Partnership in Illinois
Ending a domestic partnership varies by jurisdiction, and currently Illinois has no process for ending a Domestic Partnership. In other jurisdictions, it may involve simply filing a document that formally ends the partnership, or it may be more complicated and involve proceedings similar to those in a divorce. Speaking with a family law lawyer can help you understand if you were in a domestic partnership in the first place, and if so, what you need to do to terminate it.
Contact a Domestic Partnership Lawyer in Illinois?
As the laws surrounding domestic partnerships vary widely by jurisdiction, it is definitely in your best interest to speak with an attorney that understands how the laws in your area work. If you are seeking the creation of a Civil Union or Domestic Partnership or how to obtain similar benefits, you will need to contact an estate planning attorney or other specialist. Also, please note that if you reside in Illinois, and if you were in a civil union, we can assist you, however, we do not handle dissolutions of Domestic Partnerships. What we can help you with is the best plan for separating and the best custody or visitation plan for your children.
If you lived with someone and had a child, we can assist you with developing your custody, visitation, and parenting schedule. If you do not retain an attorney and try to figure out your parental responsibilities and parenting schedule, it is likely you will miss something that is important to your individual circumstances and miss time with your child. Contact The Law Firm of Erin N Birt PC (Birt Law) online or call us at (630) 891-2478 to schedule a consultation & planning session.