In the District, there is a viable alternative to a legal marriage that allows for legalizing a relationship in order to share health and other benefits while maintaining financial independence: Domestic Partnership Registration.
As registered domestic partners, family member benefits are conferred, such as hospital visitation, medical and family leave as well as extended government and private health insurance benefits for the partner.
However, as partnership is not a marriage by definition and construction, as long as the parties’ financial commingling is minimal to none, then the financial burden of the equitable distribution of property, spousal support, and all other marital legal parameters are deemed inapplicable.
The key is to thread carefully after the domestic partnership registration to avoid the legal definitions of common law marriage. The elements for common law marriage for same sex couple are the same as non-same sex couples in that such requires:
- Cohabitation following an express mutual agreement, which
- Must be in words of the present tense,
- To be permanent partners with the same degree of commitment as the spouses in a ceremonial marriage.
Moreover, the District’s Domestic Partnership Laws allow for registration as well as the termination of a domestic partnership in a rather short order and with significantly less legal steps as in a dissolution of marriage.
In order to register and formalize a domestic partnership, a declaration of domestic partnership must be filed and signed by the domestic partners affirming under penalty of perjury that each domestic partner:
- Is at least 18 years old and competent to contract;
- Is the sole domestic partner of the other person;
- Is not married; and
- Is in a committed relationship with the other person.
Conversely, either of the domestic partner may terminate the domestic partnership by filing a termination statement attesting the domestic partnership is to be terminated and provide a notice to the other partner or termination for cause due to:
- Abandonment, or that
- A domestic partner has permanently departed the mutual residence at least 6 months before the filing of the termination statement, or
- He/she has not been in contact with the domestic partner filing the termination statement for at least 6 months preceding the filing of the termination statement;
- Partners have married each other or another person; or that
- Upon the death of either of the domestic partners.
As marriage by definition requires financial commingling of assets, funds and earnings particularly in absence of an enforceable prenuptial agreement – the domestic partnership registration may be an interim short term or even long term solution allowing partner to live together share medical and health benefits while maintaining financial independence.
Domestic partnership registration may not compete with the institution of marriage but it maybe just a more modern versatile alternative to the traditional marriage model.