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Pros and Cons of Domestic Partnerships

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 19, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Not every happy couple is able or wants to get married. Although that could all change soon with the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on same-sex marriage, there may still be couples, same-sex, heterosexual, or otherwise who would rather choose a domestic partnership over a marriage.

Domestic partnerships were created in the 1980s in large part to provide same-sex couples the legal protections of a marriage in places where same-sex marriages were not allowed. So how have they evolved and what are the pros and cons of a domestic partnership?


Domestic partner benefits. One of the main reasons couples choose domestic partnerships is to gain the same benefits that married couples have where marriage was not an option. Those domestic partner benefits vary depending on state, county, and city laws, but generally include:

  • Health insurance;
  • Life insurance;
  • Death benefits;
  • Parental rights;
  • Sick and family leave; and
  • Tax benefits.

Official recognition. While domestic partners could have their own private commitment ceremonies or make promises between themselves to love and care for each other, there is something to be said for officially and legally recognizing a couple's commitment. Not just for the legal benefits, an official recognition of domestic partners can legitimize a relationship in the eyes of the couple, their friends and family, and society as well.


Domestic partnerships aren't available in every state. The state laws regarding domestic partnerships can vary, both from state to state, and even between cities and counties within the same state. So domestic partnerships aren't available to everyone, and some states or cities may not recognize a domestic partnership from another jurisdiction.

Benefits may vary. Due to the patchwork nature of domestic partnership laws, partners may not have access to the same benefits nationwide. And even if the government recognizes a domestic partnership, private entities like employers, hospitals, and insurance companies may have varying degrees of recognition and coverage for domestic partnerships.

You may have to talk to an experienced family or same-sex marriage attorney to fully understand the domestic partnership laws, availability, and benefits where you live.

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