Last Updated On: February 28, 2024

How to Establish a Domestic Partnership in New York City?

A domestic partnership is a legal arrangement that provides unmarried couples with certain rights and benefits similar to those of married couples. In New York City, establishing a domestic partnership is a viable option for couples who want to formalize their relationship and gain access to benefits such as healthcare, family leave, and inheritance. However, navigating the legal requirements for a domestic partnership can be challenging, which is why seeking the assistance of a family law attorney can be invaluable.

If you are considering establishing a domestic partnership in New York City, it is important to understand the legal process involved. This may include completing a declaration of domestic partnership, providing proof of identity and residency, and meeting other eligibility requirements. A knowledgeable New York family law attorney can guide you through the process, ensure that you meet all necessary criteria, and help you understand the benefits and responsibilities that come with domestic partnership.

Contact Juan Luciano Divorce Lawyer today at  (212) 537-5859 to learn more about how we can help.

Definition of a Domestic Partnership

In New York, a domestic partnership is a lawful union recognized by state laws for couples who share a strong and committed personal bond. The Domestic Partnership Law embraces the diversity of family structures, acknowledging same-sex, non-traditional, and other types of couples. Hence, New York acknowledges the legal rights of couples who choose not to marry but still maintain a committed relationship.

To apply for a domestic partnership, both partners need to be over 18 years old and residents of the county or city where they’re applying. They cannot be married or blood-related. Moreover, they must share a close and committed personal relationship, live together, and have continuously cohabited for six months. Additionally, neither partner can have been in another domestic partnership within the previous six months.

Benefits and Rights of Domestic Partnerships

When a couple registers as domestic partners, they gain certain privileges that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The specific nature of these privileges varies depending on the county or city where the couple completes the registration process. 

In New York City, for example, domestic partners are eligible for a number of rights, including:

  • the ability to take family leave for bereavement and child care if they are employees in the City, 
  • visit each other in City correctional or juvenile detention facilities,
  • visit each other in facilities run by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, 
  • be classified as a family member under the rules of the New York City Housing Authority,
  • inherit tenancy or occupancy rights under the rules of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development, and 
  • receive health benefits provided by the City of New York.

If you are considering registering as domestic partners or have already done so, it is essential to understand the benefits and rights that come with it. A skilled New York family law attorney can help you navigate the legal process and ensure that you are fully informed of your rights. Family lawyer Juan Luciano may be able to provide guidance on the legal and financial implications of domestic partnership and help you draft agreements that protect your interests. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Difference between Domestic Partnerships and Marriage

There are several differences between domestic partnerships and marriages, including the legal recognition, benefits, and societal norms associated with each.

  • Legal recognition: While marriages are recognized by the federal government, domestic partnerships are not.
  • Benefits and rights: Although many benefits and rights are similar between domestic partnerships and marriages, there can be some disparities. For example, domestic partners may not be eligible for the same federal benefits as married couples, such as Social Security survivor benefits or immigration rights.
  • Social recognition: Society generally places more importance and recognition on marriage as an institution, which can impact the way domestic partners are treated and viewed by others.
  • Religious significance: Marriage often carries religious significance, whereas domestic partnerships are strictly civil arrangements in most cases.
  • Commitment level: Marriage is typically perceived as a more significant commitment than a domestic partnership, as it usually involves vows and ceremonies. However, the level of personal commitment between domestic partners can be just as strong.

Domestic partnerships provide an alternative to marriage for couples who wish to solidify their commitments without entering into a traditional marriage. While many of the benefits and rights are similar between both types of relationships, there are key differences, especially when it comes to legal and social recognition. Understanding the distinctions between domestic partnerships and marriage can help couples make informed decisions about which option best suits their needs and values.

Aspect Domestic Partnerships Marriages
Legal Recognition Not federally recognized. Federally recognized.
Benefits and Rights Similar but may lack some federal benefits. Eligible for all federal benefits.
Social Recognition Less societal importance. More socially recognized.
Religious Significance Usually civil, not religious. Often religious ceremonies.
Commitment Level Significant commitment without traditional vows. Significant commitment with vows and ceremonies.

Eligibility Requirements for Domestic Partnership

Domestic partnership is a legal relationship that offers some of the benefits and protections of traditional marriage to couples who live together but are not legally married. This type of arrangement is generally used by same-sex couples who are unable to marry under state laws, as well as by unmarried opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry for personal or financial reasons. To qualify for a domestic partnership, couples must typically meet several eligibility criteria, which can vary depending on the city or municipality where the couple resides.

Age and Relationship Criteria

The first eligibility requirement for a domestic partnership is that both partners must be of a certain age. This age requirement varies by jurisdiction but in New York, the state allows individuals 18 years or older to enter a domestic partnership.

In addition to meeting the age requirement, both partners must be mentally competent to enter into a legal agreement. This means that neither partner can have a mental disability or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they enter into the domestic partnership agreement. The partners should also voluntarily enter into the agreement and not be coerced or pressured into doing so.

Another key criterion is that the partners must not be related by blood. Close relatives are generally not allowed to enter into domestic partnerships, and the specific prohibition may extend to first cousins or closer relationships. This requirement is meant to prevent incestuous relationships and ensure the proper separation between familial and romantic relationships.

Additionally, neither partner can be currently married to someone else or be a part of another domestic partnership. This requirement is designed to prevent bigamy and ensure that each partner is fully committed to the domestic partnership.

Residency and Proof of Cohabitation

To establish a domestic partnership, the couple generally needs to meet specific residency requirements. This includes that the partners should both reside in New York or at least one of them is currently employed in the state. 

Proof of cohabitation can be provided through various means. Some examples include joint lease or mortgage documents, utility bills with both partners’ names, or affidavits from friends or family who can attest that the couple has been living together.

Filing the Domestic Partnership Application

To register as domestic partners in New York City, you can start by scheduling an appointment on the city’s official website. This step ensures you have a reserved time slot to visit the Office of the City Clerk and complete the necessary procedures.

Before your appointment, you can expedite the process by submitting an application online through the City Clerk Online portal. Although this online submission is helpful, it is important to note that both partners must still visit the City Clerk’s office in person to finalize the application.

On the day of your scheduled appointment, both partners are required to appear at the designated City Clerk’s office together. Bringing the following items is necessary:

  • Acceptable forms of identification for both partners:
    • IDNYC
    • Valid driver’s license or non-driver identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (from the United States or any of its territories)
    • Original Birth Certificate
    • Passport
    • Official School Record
    • United States Permanent Resident Card
    • Employee Identification Card
  • A payment of $35, which can be made using a credit card or a money order made payable to the City Clerk.

During your appointment, you and your partner will need to sign the Domestic Partnership Affidavit. This document must be signed by both individuals, and it needs to be notarized. Fortunately, notarization services are provided free of charge at the City Clerk’s offices. 

Receiving the Domestic Partnership Certificate

Obtaining a Domestic Partnership Certificate is an important step for couples seeking to formalize their relationship and access various rights and benefits. Once your application is processed and the required fee is paid, the clerk will provide you and your partner with this certificate.

To obtain copies of your Domestic Partnership certificate, you may purchase them for a fee of $9 using a credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk. This certificate serves as proof of your registered Domestic Partnership and grants you and your partner access to various rights and benefits available to Domestic Partners.

If you are in need of legal assistance regarding domestic partnership, it is important to consult with a skilled family lawyer. New York family law attorney Juan Luciano may be able to provide guidance on the legal implications of domestic partnership, help you understand your rights and obligations, and assist you in any legal proceedings related to your partnership. Contact us today at (212) 537-5859 to schedule a consultation.

Changing or Updating Domestic Partnership Information

It is important to keep your domestic partnership information current with the relevant agency or registry, especially if you or your partner’s situation changes. Whether you have moved, changed your name, or experienced another significant life event, it’s essential to update your partnership records accordingly.

Some common reasons to change or update your domestic partnership information include:

  • Change in address: If either you or your partner moves or if you move in together, it is essential to inform the agency or registry. This ensures that you continue receiving any correspondence related to your domestic partnership.
  • Name change: If either partner legally changes their name, you must update your domestic partnership information. This may involve amending your domestic partnership certificate or registration.
  • Employment changes: If your partnership offers benefits such as health insurance or pension rights, you may need to notify your employer of any changes.

To update your domestic partnership information, contact the relevant registering body or agency. They will guide you through the necessary steps, which may involve providing proof of the change and completing a form.

Terminating a Domestic Partnership

To terminate a domestic partnership, a Termination Statement must be completed and signed by both parties. This statement can be submitted online or in person at the Office of the City Clerk. However, even if the statement is submitted online, the process must still be completed in person.

After submitting the Domestic Partnership Termination Application online, a confirmation number will be provided. To complete the process, certain documents must be submitted, including the confirmation number, a $27 payment (by credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk), proper identification, and any additional necessary documentation.

It’s important to keep in mind that online applications expire after 21 days. If the process is not completed in person at the Office of the City Clerk within that time frame, a new application will need to be submitted.

For individuals who cannot file in person, the Termination Statement can be filed by Certified Mail. However, a written statement must be included explaining why in-person filing is not possible or would create a hardship. If this explanation is not provided or is not convincing, the request will be denied and the Termination Statement must be filed in person.

Finally, if the Termination Statement is not signed by both parties, the original certified return receipt must also be included with the Termination Statement as proof that the non-signing party was notified..

What Happens to Property and Assets if a Domestic Partnership Dissolves?

When a domestic partnership dissolves, the division of property and assets can become a complex and emotionally charged issue. Unlike marriage, which has clear legal guidelines for asset distribution upon divorce, domestic partnerships are not uniformly regulated by equitable distribution laws. This means that, in the absence of a prior legal agreement, the process for dividing property can be less straightforward.

In many cases, domestic partners may have cohabitated and intertwined their finances for years without the legal framework of marriage to dictate the separation of assets. To avoid potential disputes, partners are strongly advised to draft a written agreement when entering into a domestic partnership. This agreement should detail the ownership of significant assets, the handling of joint accounts, and the division of property should the partnership end.

Without such an agreement, the division of property upon dissolution will largely depend on whose name is on the title or deed. Items purchased together may be subject to division based on verbal agreements or implied intentions, though these can be difficult to prove and enforce.

In contrast, the dissolution of a marriage in states like New York invokes equitable distribution laws, which aim to divide marital assets fairly—but not always equally—among spouses. Factors influencing this division include the length of the marriage, the income and property of each spouse, and the non-monetary contributions to the partnership, such as homemaking or child-rearing.

For domestic partners, creating a clear, legally binding agreement that outlines the distribution of assets is essential. It ensures that both parties are protected and that the dissolution process can be as smooth and respectful as possible, reflecting the shared intentions and contributions throughout the partnership.

Getting The Help Of a Skilled New York Family Law Attorney

If you are considering entering into a domestic partnership in New York, it is important to seek the guidance of a skilled family law attorney who can help you navigate the legal complexities involved in this type of relationship. A domestic partnership can offer many benefits, including legal recognition of your relationship, access to healthcare benefits, and inheritance rights. However, it also comes with a range of legal responsibilities and obligations that must be carefully considered.

New York family law attorney Juan Luciano may be able to help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities as a domestic partner. Our team of NYC family lawyers can help you draft a partnership agreement that is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. Contact us today at (212) 537-5859 to schedule a consultation.

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