Berman & Asbel, LLP

Understanding legal unions or domestic partnerships

A domestic partnership can exist between two people of the same sex or those of different sexes in the state of Pennsylvania. Most of the domestic partnerships that exist are between those who are of the same gender. They often live together in the same home, and some states recognize the partnership as legal so that the couple can receive certain benefits.

When two people decide to be in a domestic relationship, there is a way to register so that the state can process all of the benefits due to the couple. Some couples can go to a courthouse to get married if the state allows the union. There are some states that require couples to file documentation in the form of an application as well as pay a fee. Most states require that each person is over the age of 18 and that the couple lives in the same home.

When two people enter into a domestic partnership, some of the benefits available include those that apply to a couple who is married. These benefits include health insurance, bereavement leave and rights to visitation if one person is in the hospital or jail. Benefits vary based on the state where the couple lives. The federal government usually does not recognize the partnership, so Social Security benefits would not exist for the other person after one dies. Some states allow the other partner to receive unemployment benefits.

When dealing with same-sex couples and divorce, an attorney can assist in filing the proper documentation so that each member of the couple receives the designated benefits. An attorney can also assist in dissolving the union legally so that one or both people can get married again.

Source: FindLaw, "What is a domestic partnership?", October 06, 2014

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