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Civil unions, or domestic partnerships, give committed couples benefits, legal recognition, and official status with the state. Traditionally, only married people were awarded these types of benefits.
In the US, civil unions became popular in great part because same-sex couples could not marry, which is no longer the case. But these unions are actually for any couple who can't or won't get married for political or personal reasons yet is truly together, ostensibly forever. Let's consider what domestic partnership offers, legally.
A domestic partnership allows a couple that isn't married to handle official business for and with each other, like family. Still, what specifically this entails is different in every state where these unions are recognized.
It's also important to note that with the legalization of same-sex marriage under federal law, some states are changing their civil union statutes. That is perhaps unfair to couples who for political or personal reasons oppose marriage, yet it is a reality that domestic partnership law is in flux.
Generally speaking, the benefits and privileges of domestic partners are as follows:
But remember, these vary from state to state and anyone considering pursuing this kind of partnership will have to research the rules locally and keep track of proposed changes.
Significance of Civil Unions
Some of these privileges are not only important financially, but they can be very meaningful in times of routine administration and life-threatening emergencies. Imagine spending a lifetime with someone but not being able to call yourself family at the hospital. Civil unions and domestic partnerships allow unmarried partners who share lives to receive the official recognition of those who go the other route, saying, "I do."
Talk to a Lawyer
If you are considering making your domestic partnership official, get guidance and find out if this is the right step. Talk to a lawyer about your locale's laws and your legal options. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your situation.