When you make the decision to commit your life to someone, it can be difficult to know what you want that life to look like. Many people choose to get married so that their relationship is legally recognized and to enjoy the benefits it brings. Others are happy to commit themselves to their partner but do not want the legality of a marriage. If so, they may choose to enter into a domestic partnership. Both options have many benefits, and the attorneys at Lehnhardt Price Family Law can help you determine which is best for your family.
A domestic partnership refers to two people who are involved in a committed romantic relationship and who live together. These relationships can also be called “civil unions.” Some states recognize domestic partnerships legally at the state level. Once a state has recognized a domestic partnership, the couple will receive many of the benefits of marriage. These unions were particularly important for same-sex couples until 2015, but they are still not recognized in many states. The state of North Carolina does not recognize any domestic partnerships, but there are protections that can be put in place.
There are several benefits to a domestic partnership. In the state of North Carolina, these relationships are not legally binding, so they are much easier to end should the need arise. It is also relatively easy to put a contract in place that clearly lays out the parameters for the relationship in terms of benefits, end-of-life wishes, and other necessary information. You would also be able to clearly establish parental duties and relationships for each partner to ensure that any children who are part of the family are well cared for. These contracts can be drawn up fairly easily, and, unlike marriage certificates, they are relatively simple to adjust as the need arises.
When you get married, there are many benefits. A premarital agreement can help you ensure that your assets and those of your spouse are protected. On a more personal note, marriage is also intended to offer love and companionship.
Practically and legally speaking, there are countless benefits to being married. Depending on the work that your spouse does, you may be able to share health insurance, make medical decisions if one party is incapacitated, share in inheritance, and more. A legally recognized marriage relationship can also provide additional support and access when you have a child or children who are hurt and need someone with them, whether at school or in the hospital. Overall, marriage relationships are highly beneficial.
Common law marriages are long-term romantic relationships where the couple has lived together for a long period of time and regularly refers to themselves as spouses. Some states will legally recognize those couples as married, which then entitles them to certain benefits and privileges that come along with marriage.
The state of North Carolina does not recognize common law marriages at all. If a couple has lived together for an extended period of time, but has not gotten married, they are simply cohabiting in the eyes of North Carolina. The only exception to this is if a couple has already established a common law marriage in another state. North Carolina will typically acknowledge their relationship as a common law marriage and have it adjusted accordingly.
A domestic partnership refers to two people living together. This is also called a “civil union.” If domestic partnerships are recognized at the state level, then those couples can receive many of the same benefits as married couples. These unions were particularly important for same-sex couples until 2015, but they are still not recognized in many states. The state of North Carolina does not recognize any domestic partnerships, but some protections are available.
Domestic partnerships and marriages are very different from a legal perspective. A marriage is a legally binding contract that both spouses sign to ensure they have read and agree to it. In the state of North Carolina, domestic partnerships are not legally recognized. Couples who live together but are not married must create contracts for themselves to have similar protections. It is an option to create a domestic partnership agreement, which is a legal document that lays out the division of assets and other support if the relationship ends.
Couples that are not married do not share the same rights that married couples do in North Carolina. Married couples enjoy rights and privileges regarding things such as healthcare, inheritance, bereavement, and more. Those same rights do not extend to unmarried couples, even if they are cohabitating in a healthy way. Unmarried couples can put certain protections in place to ensure that the proper person receives the support that they need. However, they are not protected by law.
Requirements for common law marriages differ from state to state. The general consensus with common law marriage is that if a couple has been living together for multiple years and refers to themselves as spouses, then their relationship may be recognized as a common law marriage. Much like domestic partnerships, the state of North Carolina does not recognize common law marriages. A common law marriage may be recognized in North Carolina only if it is already well established in another state and is simply transferring.
Even though domestic partnerships are not legally recognized in North Carolina, they can still be beneficial to certain couples. Marriage tends to offer the most protection and stability, but the ending of a marriage relationship tends to be more involved and difficult. Each provides its own benefits and challenges, so the best course of action is to simply find the option that works best for you and your loved ones. If you are weighing the pros and cons of domestic partnerships versus marriage relationships, contact the team at Lehnhardt Price Family Law for answers to any questions you may have.