Domestic Partnership vs Marriage: Benefits and Differences

couple holding hands

Some couples may wonder what the difference is between domestic partnership and marriage. In many ways, both types of partnership are similar. A marriage is a civil union entered between a man and a woman and recognized in the eyes of the law. A married couple enjoys certain protections and benefits under the law. Tax benefits and health care benefits are two of the more widely known ones. The term “domestic partnership” loosely means an unmarried couple living together in a relationship akin to marriage. It could be formalized with a private agreement or simply develop over time. In family law, this is a historically loose term. However, in some states such as Oregon, same sex couples can register their domestic partnership which allows them more protections and benefits that are like marriage.

Should I Choose Domestic Partnership or Marriage?

Domestic partnerships do not have all of the same benefits that marriages do. However, one advantage they do have is that they are easier to form and dissolve than marriages. One potential problem with domestic partnership that you don’t have with marriage is that Federal law does not recognize these partnerships (known as civil unions in some states). Therefore, unlike marriage, the benefits of domestic partnership typically only apply in the state in which you are registered. If you move to another state, your partnership and the benefits that come with it may not be recognized. It should also be noted that only same-sex couples may register for domestic partnership, but both same-sex and heterosexual couples can now get married.

Why Can Only Same-Sex Partners Register their Domestic Partnership?

When the law allowing registration of same-sex domestic partnership in Oregon was passed, same-sex marriage was not yet legal in the United States. Oregon’s Family Fairness Act was signed by the governor in 2007, and went into effect in 2008. By calling it “domestic partnership”, the state legislation was able to circumvent some of the issues other states were facing in calling it “marriage” due to the federal mandate against it. However, registered domestic partnership gave these partners most of the same rights as married couples, though only at the state level. In 2014, same-sex marriage was legalized in Oregon, and in 2015 the US Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Before that, same-sex partners couldn’t even ask what the difference between domestic partnership and marriage were, as they only had one option.

Hobson / Oram Law

Hobson Oram Law