Domestic partnerships are recognized in Washington, D.C. Although same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the United States, this doesn't replace the District of Columbia's domestic partnership laws. Couples (both same-sex and opposite-sex) have a choice as to whether they want to marry or enter into a domestic partnership.
District of Columbia Domestic Partnership Laws Overview
While it's a good idea to consult with an attorney in complex cases, a guide to the law written in plain language can provide a useful introduction to the relevant statutes. See the chart below for an overview of the domestic partnership laws in D.C.
District of Columbia Code Division V. Local Business Affairs:
- Section 32-701 (definitions)
- Section 32-702 (domestic partnership registration and termination procedures)
- Section 32-703 (enforcement by civil action)
- Section 32-704 (domestic partnership benefits)
- Section 32-705 (government employee benefits)
Requirements and Registration for Domestic Partnerships
Requirements for Domestic Partnership
Each partner shall:
- Be at least 18 years old and competent to contract;
- Be the sole domestic partner of the other person; and
- Not be married.
Registration for Domestic Partnership
To establish the existence of the domestic partnership and to qualify for benefits, individuals must register as domestic partners by signing and filing a statement. They must register in person at the D.C. Department of Health.
The declaration must state that each partner:
- Is at least 18 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.
District Government Employee Benefits
A district government employee can be granted sick leave to care for a minor child of either domestic partner or to care for the employee's domestic partner who is on maternity or paternity leave.
A district government employee who's adopting or whose domestic partner is adopting a child can be granted annual leave or leave without pay to make necessary family arrangements.
Termination of Domestic Partnership
Methods of Termination
A domestic partnership may be terminated by the following methods:
- Either domestic partner may terminate the domestic partnership by filing a termination statement with the Mayor;
- A domestic partner may terminate the partnership because the other partner has abandoned the domestic partnership by filing a termination statement by the Mayor; or
- Automatic termination.
The person filing the termination statement must state that:
- The domestic partnership is to be terminated; and
- A copy of the termination statement has been served on the other domestic partner if the termination statement is not signed by both domestic partners.
If a partner is terminating due to abandonment, they must state the following:
- That the domestic partnership is to be terminated;
- The other partner permanently departed the mutual residence at least 6 months before filing of the termination statement; and
- If the location of the partner is known, a copy of the termination statement has been served on the other partner.
If either partner dies it results in automatic termination or one of the following occurs:
- The partners marry each other;
- One partner marries another;
- One partner abandons the other partner or the primary mutual residence.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
District of Columbia Domestic Partnership Laws: Related Resources
Speak with an Attorney About D.C. Domestic Partnership Laws
The District of Columbia's domestic partnership laws give couples an alternative to marriage. If you're interested in registering a domestic partnership, terminating an existing partnership, or have other family law issues, talk to an experienced D.C. attorney located near you.