Financial responsibility in domestic partnerships depends on the partners, the legal status of the relationship and where the couple lives. Responsibility ranges from what you decide to the responsibilities of married couples to swearing that you are jointly responsible for finances.
In most situations, partners should have financial discussions and decide on the levels of responsibility that they are comfortable with. Most states and municipalities do not recognize domestic partnerships and hence partners have no legal financial responsibility towards each other. Regardless of the legal status of your partnership, professional financial planners recommend that couples have frequent finance discussions.
Benefits and Insurance
In many places where domestic partnerships have no legal standing, employers and insurance providers offer benefits to domestic partners anyway. Providers require domestic partners to sign an affidavit swearing that they are domestic partners. Most affidavits require partners to swear that their relationship resembles marriage by adhering to conditions that are assumed to be a feature of married life but not required by any law for heterosexual married couples, such as cohabitation and joint finances. In such cases, joint finances means joint bank accounts, joint responsibility for living costs and debts and usually a joint living space.
Everything But Marriage
California, Oregon and Washington have “everything but marriage,” laws which give domestic partners all of the same rights as married couples – minus the title. In these states, the law requires domestic partners to be treated as spouses within the state. Equal treatment means that domestic partners share responsibility for each other’s debts, children and child support and must go through the same divorce processes as married couples.
Your responsibility to your domestic partner depends on the state you live in and the affidavits you sign. Read affidavits carefully, discuss finances and responsibility with your partner, and consider talking to an experienced family law lawyer.
- Emory University: LGBT Life
- Insure: Health Insurance Benefits for Domestic Partners
- Find Law: The Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibility Act
- Washington Secretary of State: Domestic Partnership Laws and Regulations
- U.S. Census. "Unmarried and Single Americans." Accessed March 25, 2020.
- Turbo Tax. "7 Tax Advantages of Getting Married." Accessed March 25, 2020.
- Human Rights Campaign. "Domestic Partner Benefit Eligibility: Defining Domestic Partners and Dependents." Accessed March 25, 2020.
- National Conference of States Legislatures. "Civil Unions and Domestic Partnership Statutes." Accessed March 25, 2020.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.