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Columbia Domestic Partnership Attorneys How Domestic Same-Sex Relationships Work in Maryland

Maryland legalized same-sex marriage on January 1, 2013, after 52.4% of voters approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act in a state referendum. Maryland's legalization of same-sex marriage foreshadows the US Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage across the US.

Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, many same-sex couples in Maryland opted to cohabitate in a domestic relationship. Understanding the difference between a domestic partnership and a marriage can help you find the best arrangement for your relationship. At Ward & Co., Chtd., our Maryland-based attorneys can help you navigate the legality of same-sex domestic partnerships and marriages with ease.

What Is a Domestic Partnership?

Domestic partnerships act as a legal alternative for couples who are in a committed relationship but don't want to marry for whatever reason. Couples in domestic partnerships receive many—but not all—of the same legal benefits as couples in marriages.

How Do I Engage in a Domestic Partnership?

There are a few requirements for engaging in a domestic partnership in Maryland. You and your partner must be:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Unrelated by blood or marriage
  • Unmarried or in a domestic partnership with another individual
  • In a relationship where both parties agree to support each other and maintain the relationship equally.

Couples who wish to engage in domestic partnerships in Maryland need to provide two pieces of documentation that evidence their bond. Examples of appropriate documentation include joint bank statements, loans, or property deeds that indicate both parties cohabitate the same living space.

To make your domestic partnership official, you'll need to swear an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership and register it with the proper officials. Hiring an experienced lawyer to help you with this process may be wise because Maryland state doesn't keep any registry of domestic partnerships. Instead, you'll need to register with your county or city, but not every county or city handles domestic partnerships the same way.

While there are certain benefits every domestic partnership receives in Maryland, the benefits you receive as part of a domestic partnership depend primarily on third parties such as your employer and insurance provider. Working with a family law attorney can help you understand what kind of benefits you'll gain from engaging in a domestic partnership.

What Are the Legal Benefits of a Domestic Partnership?

Couples who are in a formal domestic partnership may receive a variety of benefits:

  • You may be entitled to employment benefits. Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013, couples in domestic relationships received more employment benefits than they do now. Currently, however, whether or not couples in domestic partnerships receive employment benefits such as insurance or benefit plans depends on your employer. For example, Maryland state ended health insurance benefits for state workers in domestic partnerships after 2013. A family lawyer can help you understand whether or not you'll receive employment benefits for engaging in a domestic partnership.
  • You can make medical decisions for your partner. As a domestic partner, you have input on your partner's medical treatment and post-life plans, such as funeral arrangements. You can also visit your partner if they're ever hospitalized or need to reside in a medical facility (including riding with them in an ambulance if needed).
  • You may be able to avoid certain inheritance laws.
  • You can share a nursing home or other retirement facility together in your old age.

Domestic partnerships in Maryland do not legally affect a variety of issues, including property division, alimony, and child support or custody. So, consider working with a family lawyer to draft a domestic partnership agreement. Domestic partnership agreements modify the scope of your domestic partnership to cover a more comprehensive array of issues.

For example, a domestic partnership agreement can:

  • Detail how issues such as child support and child custody will be handled if children are involved in the partnership and the partnership dissolves.
  • Cover how property and assets will be divided if the partnership discontinues.
  • Give both partners the financial power of attorney if the other partner becomes incapacitated.

How Are Domestic Partnerships Dissolved?

To dissolve a domestic partnership in Maryland, you need to file a written certification with the state that signals your intent to terminate the partnership. You must also notify your partner of your decision.

Typically, both parties in a dissolved domestic partnership will work with family lawyers to ensure that any stipulations in the domestic partnership agreement are upheld and the dissolution is concluded in a mutually beneficial manner.

Contact Our Experienced Attorneys Today

At Ward & Co., Chtd., our lawyers are committed to helping clients navigate a variety of family law cases, including domestic partnerships.

To receive a free consultation from our legal team, contact us online or via phone at (410) 775-5955

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Columbia, MD 21045
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