A domestic partnership is when two people live together and share a common domestic life, which means that they share the responsibility of caring for their home and family.

Domestic partners don’t necessarily have to be romantically involved with each other, rather they can just be close friends who live together or roommates who depend on each other.

Legally, domestic partnerships provide similar benefits to marriage (which is why some people choose to be in them) but there are some differences.

Let’s take a look at some facts about domestic partnerships, including how they are different from common law relationships, how they are different from marriage, why they exist, and why some people would choose to be in one.

How is a Domestic Partnership Different from Common Law?

The difference between common law and domestic partnerships can be confusing because some states:

  • Use the terms interchangeably
  • Have specific differences between the terms
  • Don’t recognize domestic partnerships or common law relationships at all

The rules and regulations surrounding domestic partnerships and common law relationships continue to be autonomous between states.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), individuals who are registered in domestic partnerships, civil unions, or other formal relationships are not considered married for federal tax purposes. So, while state laws may grant domestic partners different rights and benefits, the one constant is that the federal government does not tax them the same as married couples.

How Are Domestic Partnerships Different from Marriage?

Domestic partnerships are different from marriages in that they don’t have to be between people who share a romantic bond. Sometimes, people enter into this type of partnership simply because they depend on each other and want to be allowed to care for each other.

Also, since marriage is a nationally-recognized institution but a domestic partnership is not, married couples typically have an easier time reaping the rewards of their relationship status (such as spousal benefits, tax benefits, and insurance benefits) than people in a domestic partnership.

Why Do Domestic Partnerships Exist?

Domestic partnerships were originally introduced throughout the United States as a way for same-sex couples to solidify their relationships, and gain some of the benefits that straight married couples receive (depending on the state) such as:

  • Spousal benefits provided by an employer
  • Health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Bereavement and sick leave
  • Death benefits (such as survivorship rights)
  • Parental leave (like maternity or paternity leave)
  • Housing rights

However, even though same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States, domestic partnerships can still serve a purpose for anyone with a partner whom they depend on for domestic life (like unmarried straight or gay couples and roommates) by providing them with some or all of the benefits listed above.

Why Choose a Domestic Partnership?

When two people live together, are not intimately involved with each other, and want some way to ensure they can care for each other properly, they may consider a domestic partnership as a potential solution. Although a domestic partnership is not entirely the same as a common law relationship or marriage, it does offer some benefits and is one way for partners to showcase their relationship.

Posted by Lisa Hoffart

Lisa is an experienced writer interested in technology and law. She's been writing for LawDepot since 2017.