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What Are Domestic Partnerships

With the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, one might assume that domestic partnerships would cease to be a legal factor. However, many couples, both with same-sex and opposite-sex partners, have chosen not to be married, instead remaining domestic partners, and as such, knowing what that status grants to people is still important.

If you and your partner would prefer to be domestic partners rather than spouses, you may wish to consult an experienced Salt Lake City domestic partnership lawyer to clarify your rights and responsibilities regarding available benefits, the process of separation, and even what your rights may be to future spousal support.

Domestic Partnership Laws In Utah

Before the Obergefell decision, the Utah Constitution held that marriage was between one man and one woman, explicitly prohibiting marriages of the same sex. (As of this writing, the law is still on the books, though the state of Utah has begun to recognize same-sex marriages in keeping with the Supreme Court decision, and a bill has been introduced to modify the law.)

Salt Lake County, however, established a Mutual Commitment Registry (essentially a domestic partnership registry under another name) as a way to recognize relationships that were not able to be classified as marriages, and it remains open. There has been no move to abolish it, and indeed it still offers an option for those who want their relationship recognized without going through a marriage.

Reasons To Have A Domestic Partnership Agreement

While the law surrounding marriage and cohabitation may have changed, the underlying reasons to protect your relationship have not. A domestic partnership agreement protects your and your partners’ rights to make decisions for each other, to inherit from each other, and generally to have legal standing in what can be the most important relationship of your life. Here are 3 reasons to have a domestic partnership agreement:

  • debt handling
  • equitable distribution of property
  • estate planning

The primary reason to have a domestic partnership agreement is to govern asset and debt handling while you are together. Property laws that apply to married couples generally do not apply to the unmarried and setting out specific guidelines for distribution – for example, putting an automobile in one spouse’s name because they use it most, but clarifying that this does not necessarily mean they own the car for purchases of asset division – can avoid months of legal wrangling. Utah is a state that requires equitable distribution of property (as opposed to the community property model), and determining what exactly constitutes an equitable distribution can get quite complex unless discussed beforehand.

Another reason many couples opt for domestic partnership agreements to protect their relationships is estate planning. In the majority of relationships, one partner predeceases the other, and without a set plan for asset distribution, their partner may wind up with nothing. It is possible to do this in a standard will, but many couples prefer to handle the issue ahead of time, especially if there is the possibility of the will being challenged.

Contact A Domestic Partnership Lawyer In Salt Lake City

While issues such as child custody and child support generally cannot be contracted for, it is possible to consult a family law attorney for advice. Jill L. Coil and the firm of CoilLaw, LLC are well-versed in the law surrounding domestic partnership agreements and can help you draft a document that keeps you and the ones you love safe and provided for. Contact us today at (801) 884-3775 or fill out our web form to set up an appointment.


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