With regard to domestic agreements under Florida law, domestic partnership is an option in addition to marriage in which partners can enact legal commitments. A domestic partnership is a valuable document for both same-sex couples and heterosexual couples who seek legal partnership but do not wish to be married. These agreements afford couples numerous, but not all, benefits commonly associated with marriage. Because such agreements encompass a wide range of issues within family law, couples who seek to file for, amend, or terminate a registered domestic partnership require the assistance of experienced family law attorneys. Contact the Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates for a free consultation and case evaluation.
What Is A Domestic Partnership?
Same-sex marriage has been recognized by the State of Florida since January 6, 2015, but domestic partnerships provide both same-sex and hetersexual couples with another option for legal partnership apart from marital union. According to the City of Gainesville, "a domestic partnership is a legal or personal relationship between two individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are neither joined by marriage nor a civil union." A domestic partnership agreement is comparable to a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement in a marriage, and — in the event that the couple separates — it can settle matters such as child custody; child support; the division of assets and liabilities; and whether support will be paid to either party, among other issues of importance to the couple in question.
Domestic Partnership Vs. Marriage
Marriage typically affords couples a greater number of benefits and protections than those available through domestic partnership and civil union, including access to spousal IRAs, tax exemptions, financial protection during divorce, home sale exclusions, spousal health insurance coverage, and inheritance of assets and property upon the death of a spouse, among other items. Marriages are legally recognized throughout the United States, but domestic unions are recognized only in specific states.
Because domestic partnerships are not recognized at a federal level, an unmarried partner cannot petition a non-citizen partner, as with married couples. In addition, married couples gain automatic, non-taxable inheritance to each other's assets upon the death of one of the spouses. Domestic partners can likewise inherit the assets and property of a deceased partner through terms specified within the domestic partnership certificate and a last will and testament, but the inheritance will be subject to taxes.
To learn more about the differences between domestic partnership and marriage or for a free consultation, contact our firm to speak with an experienced domestic partnership lawyer.
Domestic Partnership Benefits
Domestic partners are entitled to a portion of the federal and state law benefits and legal rights of marriage, but not all. The benefits allotted to registered partners are dictated by federal laws as well as various state laws. The State of Florida does not have a civil union or domestic partnership law which grants spousal-like rights to unmarried couples. Domestic partnership benefits may include the following, among other legal perks as per state law. For more information about the available benefits in Florida, contact our Gainesville attorneys.
- Bereavement leave
- Funeral and burial decisions
- Pre-need guardianship
- Participation in education of children in common
- Visitation for partners incarcerated
- Access to information and authorization for visits and decision-making with regard to health care and medical facilities
- Notification as next of kin in the event of an emergency
- Consideration as a decedent in the event of a partner's death
- Health insurance policy coverage, through an affidavit of domestic partnership
- Family leave for sick partners
- Family consideration for purposes of city ordinances, policies, and practices, except as prohibited by state law or federal law
At the federal level, domestic partner benefits are non-taxable only if the domestic partner qualifies as a dependent under the Internal Revenue Code (IRS) definition of "qualifying relative" — to qualify, a domestic partner must generally have the same primary address as the employee/taxpayer for the year; be a member of the employee/taxpayer's household; receive more than half of the support for the year from the employee/taxpayer; not be anyone’s “qualifying child” for tax purposes; and be a citizen of the U.S., a resident of the U.S., or a resident of a country contiguous to the U.S.
How To Register As Domestic Partners
Since there is no statewide registration for domestic partnership in Florida, individual cities and counties typically hold their own registration requirements and processes for applying for domestic partnership or civil union status. In the City of Gainesville, domestic partnership registration requires payment of a fee of $12.50 for city residents and $25.50 for non-city residents. Partners who seek registered partnership status must obtain, complete, and submit in-person the application. Applicants are required to bring with them an acceptable form of identification and the required fee. Thereafter, the registration for domestic partnership must be signed by both partners and notarized — notarization is available free of charge with the Office of the City Clerk. For more information about the domestic partnership registration process, contact a domestic partnership attorney with our firm today.
Domestic Partnership Registry Requirements
As with the registration process, the requirements of partners who seek to achieve a certificate of domestic partnership must meet different standards as per individual county or city law. As per the City of Gainesville, each applicant must meet the following requirements.
- The applicant is at least 18 years old and competent to contract
- The applicant is not married to, or a member of, another Registered Domestic Partnership or civil union with anyone other than the co-applicant
- The applicant agrees to share the common necessities of life and to be responsible for each other's welfare
- The applicant considers the mutual residence to be his or her primary residence
- The applicant considers himself or herself to be a member of the immediate family of the other partner
- The applicant agrees to mutually support the other by contributing in some fashion, not necessarily equally, to maintain and support the Registered Domestic Partnership
- The applicants are not related by blood to one another in anyway which would prohibit legal marriage in the State of Florida
Contact our attorneys for comprehensive counsel regarding your and your partner’s eligibility for domestic partnership registry in Gainesville. We can provide you with guidance through each step of the process and help ensure a successful final result to your case.
Certificate Of Domestic Partnership
Once the application for domestic partnership has been processed and the fee has been paid, couples will receive a certificate of domestic partnership, which constitutes notice of a registered domestic partnership as applicable for rights and benefits available to domestic partners either at the federal and/or state level. In addition to the aforementioned rights and benefits of registered domestic partners, partners may also petition for additional rights and benefits through filing of legal petitions which specify the partners’ wishes or other important information as regarded by each partner. The family lawyers with The Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates can help you and your partner with each aspect of the domestic partnership process and help ensure that your mutual requests, requirements, and preferences are respected. To get started, schedule a family law consultation and case evaluation today.
How To Amend A Registered Domestic Partnership
Registered domestic partners may amend a registered domestic partnership that was previously filed in order to update a household address or to legally remove any included dependents from the certificate. To be considered valid, the proposed amendment must be signed by both parties within the domestic partnership. In addition, partners who seek an amendment to their certificate must also submit a filing fee at the time in which the amendment is requested. If you and your partner seek an amendment to your domestic partner registry, or the terms of your partnership with regard to the rights and privileges, our family lawyers can help to ensure the amendment is effectively filed and approved.
Can Domestic Partnership Be Terminated?
A registered domestic partnership may be terminated through the in-person filing of a termination statement with the Office of the City Clerk during regular business hours. The declaration of termination may be made by either a single partner or both partners. If the submitted termination statement is not signed by both parties, proof of notification to the non-signing party in the form of registered or certified mail must also be submitted. Valid forms of identification are required as is payment of the fee for domestic partnership termination, as per municipal requirements. In case of death, marriage, civil union, or domestic registry with a partner not included within the registered domestic partnership, automatic termination of the partnership will occur and any termination will thereafter be effective on the date of filing.