Domestic Partnership- 4 Ways It Is Different From A Marriage And 6 Benefits It Offers

New-Age Couples | | , Copywriter & Sports journalist
Updated On: July 29, 2023
Domestic partnership

If you’ve ever viewed the institution of marriage in a negative light, you might be looking around for alternatives. Live-in relationships are great, but they don’t provide the legal benefits marriages do. Combine the best of both worlds and you have yourself a domestic partnership.

Initially created exclusively for same-sex couples, domestic partnerships have gained popularity with opposite-sex couples since it’s been made available to them.

In an ever-changing world, it’s important to be up to date about the options available to you. Find out through our article how domestic partnerships are formed, what benefits they provide and if it’s the right fit for you.

What Is A Domestic Partnership?

First things first, let’s get the “domestic partnership” meaning out of the way. A domestic partnership, also known as a civil partnership, is a legal relationship between two people who share the same domestic life. They are not married and depending on where they live, they can be entitled to legal benefits and protection.

To understand why domestic/civil partnerships exist in the first place, we’ll need to go back to the 1980s. Back then, the concept of same-sex marriage was still unfortunately a distant dream for many. The gay and lesbian rights activists of the time fought to establish something resembling a marriage so they could avail themselves of similar benefits.

In fact, the term “domestic partnership” was synonymous with a same-sex couple since that’s all they had to rely on. Up until very recently, of course, when some places in the world finally legalized same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 29 countries.

Born out of necessity, it evolved into something widely accepted. Domestic partnerships are now available for mixed-sex couples as well, for those who agree they share a similar domestic life but don’t want to be married on paper.

same-sex couples can avail domestic partnership benefits
“Domestic partnership” was synonymous with same sex couples

No, you can’t just be in a domestic relationship with your friend you said you’d marry if you’re both single at 35. So, who qualifies as a domestic partner? What does “same domestic life” even mean? Let us clear things up. To qualify for a domestic partnership, the following things are considered:

Partners should be living together

You can’t really share the same domestic life if you two aren’t living together. If you want to apply for a domestic partnership, you have to be sharing the same roof with your partner permanently.

Related reading: 7 Golden Rules For A Live-In Relationship

Shared responsibility for living expenses

Both people in a domestic relationship have to take responsibility for each other’s common living expenses. Joint ownership of property or other financial agreements can act as proof for the same. In simple terms, you can’t expect to go out and impulse-buy that sports car and not expect any consequences. If you do something similar, you’ll find out money issues can ruin relationships.

The age of both parties involved

Both of you have to be 16+. If both parties are over the age of 18, parental consent is not necessary. to be able to apply for a domestic partnership. However, in some places like New Jersey and Washington, opposite-sex couples are required to be older than 62. We’re just as confused as you are!

You cannot be married to each other, or anyone else

If you intend to enter into a domestic partnership, the two of you should be unmarried. Some states also require you to have not annulled a domestic partnership at least in the past 180 days. However, alimony laws differ from place to place.

Those were some of the main requirements that determine who qualifies as a domestic partner. Other factors include the length and commitment of the relationship, and if the two are related to each other or not (duh!).

How Is Domestic Partnership Different From Marriage?

The idea of not opting for legal marriage is on the rise for new-age couples. Their problems with the institution range from its murky history which states marriage was founded with a goal of combining wealth and transferring “ownership” of the daughter from the father to her husband. Up until 2019, domestic partnerships were exclusively allowed for same-sex couples in the UK.

Apart from the fact that civil partnerships were created with the same-sex couple in mind, there are a few other differentiating factors between marriages and domestic partnerships. No, not just the common marriage problems. That might even apply in a domestic partnership since you two live together. Let’s get into detail on why the two terms aren’t interchangeable.

1. The formation

domestic partnership benefits - no need to have a ceremony
A traditional wedding ceremony need not take place for a domestic partnership

In parts of the world, marriage is solemnized when words are spoken between the couple whilst an ordained minister is present. Marriage can also be solemnized through religious customs and rituals. In India, a photo of the couple from the ceremony is also required as a document while you apply for a marriage certificate.

The formation of a domestic partnership is different. You can host a ceremony if you’d like, but in no way is it required. A domestic partnership is formed when the second party signs the civil partnership document, after meeting the eligibility criteria of who qualifies as a domestic partner, of course.

If you’ve dreamt about your “I do” moment and the religious rituals, you can still do all of them after signing the domestic partnership document. But of course, they’ll hold a little more meaning if you’re getting married, since religious rituals can be enough to solemnize a marriage.

Related reading: The Meaning Of The Seven Pheras Of Hindu Marriage

2. Your rights will differ depending on where you are

Since 2350 B.C, marriage has been a constant everywhere in the world. As an institution, it’s all over the world and every country recognizes it. Domestic partnerships were formed in the 1980s and were exclusive to same-sex couples for quite a while.

While some countries like Denmark have completely done away with the concept of domestic partnerships after they legalized same-sex marriage, other countries like Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia don’t even recognize domestic partnerships in the first place.

Similarly, even if a country does recognize domestic partnerships, your rights may change depending on where you are and/or travel to. So before you pack your bags for that couple adventure vacation, you should probably do your research about how your domestic partnership holds there.

3. Adultery cannot be used as a ground for dissolution

Ending a marriage is known as a divorce, whereas a dissolution order ends a domestic partnership. If your partner has sexual relations with someone out of your relationship, i.e adultery, you will not be able to use that as grounds for a dissolution claim.

Although all the other grounds for divorce can also be used for a dissolution claim. The grounds being: desertion for 2 years, separation for 2 years, separation for 5 years (no notice required) and unreasonable behavior.

4. Domestic partners cannot claim they are married

For legal reasons, a couple in a domestic partnership cannot claim they are married. This basically means that you cannot claim to be married on legal documents. So, you can’t just say you’re married to the next person who asks, so you don’t have to go through the process of explaining what a domestic partnership is. You can however send them this article instead.

Something worth mentioning is that up until very recently, the marriage certificates in the UK accepted only the bride and groom’s father’s signature. In May 2021, the UK government claimed they’ll fix this “historic anomaly” and include the mother’s signature in certificates henceforth. Marriages were also only registered on paper, but with the roll around of the certificate change, marriages are now registered online, just like domestic partnerships always were.

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6 Benefits Of A Domestic Relationship

While there are some good reasons to get married, domestic partnerships come with their own benefits. The financial benefits are almost identical, as well. Some employers also extend benefits that married couples get to domestic partners as well. However, this completely differs from organization to organization and is not mandated by the government.

The other tax benefits and financial benefits provided by the government also vary greatly depending on where you are. That being said, domestic partners still receive some considerable benefits we’ve listed out for you below

1. Domestic partners can adopt a child together

Domestic partnership benefits include adoption
Legal adoption of a child is possible

Domestic partners, should they wish to, are legally allowed to adopt and raise a child together. You may have heard or will hear the term “domestic partner adoption” being used, but that’s a little different from adopting a child.

Domestic partner adoption refers to when one partner in the relationship adopts the child of the other partner. They do not immediately get parental rights over the children born to their partner but they do have a responsibility to safeguard and raise any children under 16 living in the house. 

2. Extended employee benefits like dental, health insurance

Most companies offer the option to extend health insurance to your domestic partner. That’s only if you receive it in the first place! Married couples, of course, receive the same benefits. Employers all over the world who value inclusivity make sure domestic partnership couples get the same perks married couples do.

3. Next of kin rights

Domestic partners receive next of kin rights, which translates to hospital visiting rights and making medical treatment decisions for your partner, if they are currently unable to communicate themselves.

Domestic partners are able to organize the funerals of their partner and register for a death certificate as well.

Related reading: Everything About The 9 Types Of Marriages In India

4. Protection at the time of untimely death

A partner in a domestic relationship would be entitled to inherit all or some of the estate if their partner died without leaving a will. It makes things look a lot better when you realize unmarried couples inherit nothing without a will.

5. Financial relief during dissolution

As you know, married partners can claim financial relief if they get divorced. If your domestic partnership, unfortunately, does not pan out too well for you, you’d be able to make a claim for financial relief as well. 

These can be done in the form of lump-sum payments, spousal maintenance and even through rights to property.

6. Tax benefits

Domestic partnership receives the same tax benefits that married couples do. Benefits like the “marriage allowance” apply to domestic partnerships as well.

You can also transfer assets to your partner without attracting a capital gains tax or an inheritance tax liability. What all this technical jargon basically means is that if you sit down with your accountant, they’ll tell you ways a domestic partnership can save money on tax just like a married couple does.

Domestic partnerships receive almost all of the benefits married couples get. Possibly the biggest and most satisfying domestic partnership benefit could be that you’ll avoid the patriarchal institution of marriage. If you do view it that way. 

Perhaps you have a problem with the religious rituals or traditions that come part and parcel with the ceremony of getting married. Or maybe you just don’t want to splash the cash on a big fat wedding. Whatever your reason may be, domestic partnerships are definitely a great option you should keep in mind.


1. What is the difference between a domestic partnership and a relationship?

A domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two people who are in an intimate and caring relationship. They receive multiple benefits, similar to married couples. A relationship is essentially a commitment between two people which isn’t recognized by law and hence do not receive any benefits on taxation or annulment.

The formation of a domestic partnership is done when the second party signs the necessary document. A relationship is formed when two people decide to be intimately involved with each other, without involving the government to put their commitment on paper.

2. Is a domestic partnership romantic?

The requirements for a domestic partnership include the partners to share a common domestic life, be in a committed and caring relationship with each other and shared responsibility for living expenses. A domestic partnership means that you intend to live with your partner forever and receive benefits that married couples do. If that’s not “love”, we don’t know what is!

3. Can straight couples get domestic partnerships?

While domestic partnerships were initially made so that same-sex couples could enjoy similar benefits to that of married couples, a lot of places in the world now offer straight couples the option to be in a domestic partnership.

The UK ruled in 2019 that all opposite-sex couples can get into domestic partnerships. Similarly, states in the U.S like California, Vermont and Colorado among others allow opposite-sex domestic partnerships.

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