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Domestic Partnership Versus Marriage in New York 2024 – Exploring the Differences

Domestic Partnership Versus Marriage in New York 2024 – Exploring the Differences

The landscape of relationships and legal statuses has changed significantly in recent years. In New York, domestic partnerships and marriages are recognized, each providing various benefits and protections for couples. By understanding the key differences between the two, couples can decide what is favorable for their relationship.

Domestic Partnership — Definition and Eligibility

A domestic partnership is a legally recognized relationship status, similar to marriage, that grants certain rights and benefits to couples who choose not to marry or cannot do so. To be eligible for a domestic partnership in New York, both parties must be:

  • -At least 18 years old.
  • -Not married or in another domestic partnership.
  • -Not related by blood in a way that would prohibit marriage in New York.
  • -Living together on a continuous basis.
  • -Mutually responsible for each other’s basic living expenses.

Registering a domestic partnership involves applying with the appropriate local government office, such as the New York City Clerk’s Office. Upon approval, a Certificate of Domestic Partnership is issued.

Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in New York

Marriage — Definition and Eligibility

Marriage, on the other hand, is a legally binding contract between two individuals who commit to sharing their lives together. In New York, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can legally marry. To be eligible for marriage, individuals must be:

  • -At least 18 years old (or 17 with parental consent).
  • -Not currently married or in a domestic partnership.
  • -Not related by blood in a way that would prohibit marriage in New York.

To marry, couples must obtain a marriage license from a local government office, such as the New York City Clerk’s Office. After obtaining the license, the couple must participate in a marriage ceremony, which can be conducted by various officiants, including judges, clergy, and other authorized individuals. Following the ceremony, the signed marriage license must be returned to the issuing office to be registered and recorded.

Benefits and Protections

Domestic partnerships and marriages provide couples with varying degrees of benefits and protections. While domestic partnerships offer certain rights at the local and state levels, they do not provide the same federal protections as marriages.

Domestic Partnership Benefits:

  • -Access to a partner’s health insurance benefits, if offered by the employer.
  • -The right to visit a partner in the hospital and make medical decisions on their behalf when authorized.
  • -The ability to take family leave to care for an ill partner or a partner’s child.
  • -Inheritance rights, in the absence of a will, and the right to sue for wrongful death.

Marriage Benefits:

  • -All the benefits offered by domestic partnerships.
  • -Access to a partner’s Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits.
  • -The right to file joint federal and state tax returns.
  • -Immigration benefits for a foreign partner.
  • -Access to federal benefits, such as family and medical leave, and the right to sponsor a partner for a green card.

Dissolution and Divorce

Ending a domestic partnership or marriage also involves different processes. Domestic partnerships can be terminated by filing a termination statement with the same office where the partnership was registered. There is no waiting period, and once the termination is filed, the partnership is considered dissolved.

Divorce, however, is a more complex process. Couples must file for divorce in court and meet residency requirements before proceeding. Grounds for divorce in New York include irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, cruel treatment, abandonment, imprisonment, and adultery. New York also allows for no-fault divorce, which can be initiated after a couple has lived separately for at least one year. After filing for divorce, couples must attend a settlement conference and obtain a judgment of divorce before the marriage is legally dissolved.


Q: Can Domestic Partners Adopt a Child Together in New York?

A: Yes, domestic partners in New York can adopt a child together. The state allows joint adoption by domestic partners, just as it does for married couples. Adoption agencies must treat domestic partners and married couples equally in terms of eligibility and the adoption process. It is important to note that adoption laws and procedures can be complex, and it’s advisable to consult with an experienced adoption attorney to navigate the process and ensure all legal requirements are met.

Q: What Happens to Property and Assets if a Domestic Partnership Dissolves?

A: In the event of a domestic partnership dissolution, property division may be more complicated than in a divorce, as domestic partnerships are not subject to the same equitable distribution laws as marriages. Partners should consider having a written agreement in place to outline how assets and property will be divided in case of dissolution. In a marriage, however, the division of assets and property follows New York’s equitable distribution laws, which consider various factors, such as the length of the marriage, the income and property of each spouse, and contributions made to the marriage by each party.

Q: Can a Domestic Partner Make Decisions About a Partner’s End-of-Life Care?

A: In New York, a domestic partner can make decisions about a partner’s end-of-life care if they have been designated as the partner’s healthcare proxy. It is crucial to have a written healthcare proxy document in place, as it allows the selected partner to make medical decisions on behalf of the other if they become incapacitated or unable to communicate their wishes. In the absence of a healthcare proxy, a domestic partner may have a different decision-making authority than a spouse.

Q: Can Domestic Partners and Married Couples Change Their Last Names?

A: Both domestic partners and married couples in New York can change their last names. Upon registering a domestic partnership or obtaining a marriage license, couples can choose to adopt their partner’s last name, hyphenate their last names, or create a new combined last name. To update their identification and other official documents, they must present their domestic partnership certificate or marriage license as proof of the name change.

Contact the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, Today

If you have questions or need legal help with domestic partnerships, marriages, dissolutions, or adoptions in New York, contact the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, today. We can provide experienced and compassionate counsel to help you confidently navigate the legal process and be in a better position to make informed marriage or domestic partnership decisions.

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