What is a registered domestic partnership?
Entering into a registered domestic partnership is a public acknowledgement of your committed relationship to each other, but the exact benefits vary widely because the statutes that create a registered domestic partnership are County Ordinances, not Florida Statutes.
Domestic partnerships are still very attractive for opposite sex couples, where benefits or income may be negatively impacted if they elect to marry, or in same-sex relationships to allow for recognition of the their relationship as a way to ease into being a couple or also where their may be a negative financial impact to getting married (such as higher income taxes). Many people are divorced or widowed, and they do not feel like they want to enter into another marriage situation, but still want some recognition of the importance that a new partner has in their life.
Some of the Florida Statutes have been extended in recent years to acknowledge the existence of domestic partnerships in interpreting application of the law. For instance, in the very broadest of interpretation that I am aware of, in completion of a registered domestic partnership may allow for the following:
- You will have visitation rights if your partner becomes hospitalized.
- You can participate in your partner's health care, funeral, and burial decisions (as authorized by varies county ordinance).
- Should your partner become incarcerated, you will have correctional facility visitation rights.
- You will qualify as a family member in any situation requiring or permitting family member notification.
- Should you and/or your partner have children, you will have the right to participate in those children's education.
- Should your partner require a pre-need guardian, you have the right to be designated as such.
What are the benefits of being in a domestic partnership?
It is a public record of your committed relationship, and depending upon the form provided by the county, it may or may not provide more legal consequences than just a statement that you reside together, share food and shelter during the time of your domestic partnership. It may also allow for hospital visitation (but not healthcare proxy or HIPPA authorization), and it may also include additional authorizations for decision making for children or funeral arrangements. Some employers require this public record to be in effect to allow your domestic partner to be covered under an employer sponsored health plan, but the availability for employer sponsored benefits has become less likely, as more companies are limiting domestic partnership benefits and covering only married couples.
One of the biggest advantages is that it is easy to enter a domestic partnership and it is easy to terminate a domestic partnership. Both the creation and termination of a domestic partnership is by the signing of a notarized form and having it recorded in the county public records where you live.
What are the disadvantages of being in a domestic partnership?
Most importantly, you must also take additional legal steps to contract for additional decision making for when you domestic partner is incapacity. You can not take for granted that you can make health care decisions, or manage their assets if they are not able to. In addition, you have no standing to make disposition of your domestic partner's remains, nor do you have any inheritance rights. Its not that you can not do these things, but you must take action to put these desires into legally enforceable documents.
In addition, many blood family members may not respect your relationhip, and they may rely upon the intestacy laws to assert inheritance rights when your domestic partner dies. It is critical that you prepare cohabitation agreements to identify separate and joint property, as well as have testamentary instruments (such as a Last Will or Revocable Trust Agreement) in place to overcome the legal rights of your domestic partner's family.
Are there tax consequences for being in a domestic partnership versus a marriage?
The answer is yes, but the magnitude is different based upon your individual situation.
Since you are not married, you will continue to file your own individual tax returns, as well as your marginal tax rate will be based on your income alone. When you are married, your tax situation becomes more complicated, and the differences are probably outside the scope of this post.
However, the areas that are impacted are that you will generally file as a joint married couple, your marginal tax rates will be based on a different set of income brackets, and for those that may be retired, you will likely be penalized (vs filing as a single individual) on your social security benefits. In addition, it is easier (and less costly) to qualify for medicaid for a single individual, when compared to what happens with a married couple. These are just a few of the considerations, and this is when you need specific professional advice to work through the consequences for your situation.
How do I and my domestic partner become official?
If you and your partner reside in Broward County, you can obtain the Declaration of Domestic Partnership by visiting:
If you and your partner reside in Palm Beach County, you can obtain the Declaration of Domestic Partnership by visiting:
If you and your partner reside in Miami-Dade County, you can obtain the Declaration of Domestic Partnership by visiting:
How do I terminate a domestic partnership?
You will go to the same county office and file a similar form. The procedures vary from county to county in Florida.
Give us a call. We can help.
Law Office of Shawn C. Newman, P.A.
710 Northeast 26th Street
Wilton Manors, FL 33305-1238
Phone: (954) 563-9160
Serving all of the greater Fort Lauderdale area and Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties in Southern Florida.