Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage: The Legal Benefits of Each

Happy couple

There are several key differences to a domestic partnership and marriage in California. On the surface, they are different ways to formalize relationships between two romantic partners. While they each have their pros and cons, the two offer their own unique benefits that can make either appealing depending on your preferences. It is important to remember that domestic parternships do have limitations when compared to a heterosexual marriage. We will discuss this further below.

Benefits Available in Domestic Partnerships

Domestic partnerships were initially created to provide basic legal and economic protections to same-sex couples. While marriage is now legal across the United States for everyone, individuals from all walks of life may still choose to enter into a domestic partnership as opposed to marriage for a variety of reasons.

Some of the top benefits offered in domestic partnerships include:

  • A legal alternative to marriage
  • Domestic partners avoid the “marriage tax penalty” which often forces married couples into a higher tax bracket
  • Full legal rights and obligations related to raising a child born during the domestic partnership
  • Partners are generally able to receive coverage on a family health insurance policy
  • The ability to adopt a child born to a partner prior to the domestic partnership
  • The right to bereavement leave
  • The right to family leave for a sick partner
  • Visitation rights in hospitals and jails

However, there are many legal benefits domestic partners lack that are available only to those who are legally married. For instance, domestic partnerships may not be recognized everywhere you go, even within the United States.

Benefits Available Only in Marriage

Marriage is a federally recognized and legally binding affair that comes with over 1000 benefits, many of which are denied in domestic partnerships, including the right to:

  • Inherit your spouse’s estate
  • Receive financial support from your spouse
  • Receive Social Security, veteran’s, and pension benefits through your spouse
  • Transfer an unlimited amount of assets to your spouse tax free
  • Sponsor a spouse for immigration
  • Divide marital assets during divorce

While not technically a “benefit” of marriage, since matrimony is a more traditional and therefore familiar way of acknowledging a relationship, it is likely that you may encounter individuals who consider marriage to be more “serious” and acceptable than domestic partnerships. Unfortunately, people in domestic partnerships might find they are less respected than their married counterparts. Yet, both options have their pros and cons—what it ultimately comes down to is what feels right for you and your partner.

If you have questions about domestic partnerships or require relevant legal advice or representation, contact our Bez Law Firm, P.C. office in Roseville to request a consultation with an experienced attorney today.

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