Domestic Partnership vs Marriage: Difference & Benefits

domestic partnership vs marriage
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The difference between a domestic partnership vs marriage in the U.S. should be an essential reading for those who are in a serious and long-term relationship. If you are confused about marrying someone, try living together under a legal agreement which allows two partners to live under the same roof without being married. Domestic partnership is one of the closest alternatives to marriage which you can choose as it offers some of the same amenities that a marriage does. 

If you’re struggling to understand the difference between a marriage and domestic partnership, this is the right piece of reading for you. When asked on Reddit if domestic partnerships are a good idea, one user shared, “Setting up a domestic partnership before marriage can be rather beneficial to both parties. It is really a protective device for both of you prior to actually marrying.” 

What Does Domestic Partnership Mean?

According to California law, domestic partnership/relationship is defined as “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” This law was mainly established during the early 1980s for homosexual people because same-gender marriage wasn’t legal back then. Here’s the criteria for a domestic partnership:

  • Partners should be above the age of 18 and should willingly agree to enter a domestic relationship
  • The couple should be committed and reside together
  • They shouldn’t be married legally or religiously 
  • They can have children together
  • They shouldn’t be married to anyone else
  • They shouldn’t have any other domestic partner
  • They must share responsibilities for living expenses
  • Domestic partners cannot be related by blood

Is domestic partnership the same as marriage? It’s not, but the couple can enjoy some benefits that a married couple does. Many people these days, regardless of their sexual orientation, opt for domestic partnership because it is similar to marriage. Once you and your partner enter the relationship using the Domestic Partnership Agreement, you can outline the financial, property, health, and medical details of your relationship. 

Diana, a 34-year-old scientist, shares why she chose domestic partnership over marriage, “It’s harder to ‘walk away’ from a marriage than a domestic partnership. Divorce is very expensive. If things don’t work out with your domestic partner, breaking up is as simple as filing a Notice of Termination with the Secretary of State.” 

Understanding The Difference Between Domestic Partnership And Marriage

Let’s talk about the difference between a domestic partner vs spouse. Living together with your partner as roommates is a different dynamic from these as well. You must be involved with your partner romantically in order to qualify for a domestic relationship. You must live together in a permanent residence and share basic financial responsibilities like food and shelter. 

Between a domestic partnership vs marriage, the main drawback of the former is that not all states recognize domestic partnerships. Some orthodox and queerphobic people don’t take domestic relationships seriously. Below are some of the differences which will answer the question: Is domestic partnership the same as marriage?

1. Legal rights of children

There are quite a few legal differences in a domestic partner vs spouse dynamic. The former isn’t considered a family by the law. The main difference is that a married couple receives a lot more protection by the law, whereas a domestic relationship is frowned upon by conservatives. There are a couple of rights, though, that are common in a domestic partner vs spouse situation:

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  • A domestic partner can pay for child support or any other similar support without being married
  • If your domestic partner has a child, you can adopt them before getting married 
  • A child born to two partners in a domestic partnership is treated exactly like the children born to a married couple
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2. Tax difference 

Taxes are exorbitantly high for married couples. In domestic partnership vs marriage, the former takes the prize here with the avoidance of tax penalty that a married couple is supposed to pay. Tim, a 29-year-old investment banker, says, “I chose to be in a domestic relationship because I wanted to live with my partner before getting hitched officially. We file our taxes separately and save money on the marriage tax.”

3. Estate or property difference 

Another domestic partnership vs marriage difference is this: if you’re planning to buy a house or an estate together (in a domestic partnership), you will have to go through a lot of difficulties as compared to a married couple. Only one person can apply for a mortgage. You will have to sign a cohabitation property agreement in order to protect yourself when the relationship begins to spell doom. 

When you are married, your spouse’s properties will be automatically passed down to you and you don’t have to pay any taxes on those properties. Whereas in a domestic partnership, the properties will be passed down to you but you will have to pay taxes. 

Related Reading: Is Marriage Worth It – What You Gain Vs What You Lose

4. The difference of financial perks in domestic partnership vs marriage

Domestic partners don’t receive retirement or other Social Security benefits like a married couple does. When I asked my colleague, Mason, about his views on life partner vs marriage, he said, “The limitations of financial and legal perks is why many people choose marriage over  a domestic relationship.

“Even insurance companies don’t treat this as a marriage. Married couples enjoy more benefits than an unmarried one. You can’t transfer your assets to them without paying hefty taxes.”

Benefits Of Domestic Partnership Vs Marriage

Domestic partnership was designed to give committed people a chance to live like married couples. There are many economic and non-economic benefits you can receive in a domestic relationship, along with the following rights:

  • Avoid married tax penalty: A marriage penalty is when a household’s overall tax bill increases due to a couple marrying and filing taxes jointly. This tax doesn’t apply for domestic partners. This is one of the awesome benefits of not getting married
  • Health and dental benefits: Your health and Senegal benefits will be covered if you have a domestic partner of any gender
  • Legal rights to children: A child born to parents in a domestic partnership is treated like children born to a married couple 
  • The right to adopt: If the child was born to a different partner, you have the right to legally adopt your domestic partner’s child
  • The right to bereavement leave: You have the right to take up to five consecutive work days of paid bereavement leave of your spouse, child, step-child, parent, or sibling 
  • Visitation rights in healthcare facilities: If your partner is at the hospital, you get all the visitation rights to go see them
  • Inheritance rights: If one of the domestic partners dies without a will, the surviving domestic partner will inherit the property but they will have to pay the tax amount 

In domestic partnership vs marriage, marriage is a sweeter deal here because you get many benefits as a married couple. While you don’t have to pay the marriage tax penalty in a domestic partnership, a marriage offers married couples several other benefits. Couples can transfer unlimited assets to each other without having to pay a tax. 

Should I Choose Domestic Partnership Or Marriage?

You can choose domestic partner vs marriage based on your perspective, preference, and religious views. Most people who are religious don’t choose domestic partnership. For such people, marriage is a better option as it offers significant benefits and protections irrespective of where you reside. Marriages are recognised in all the states in the U.S. However, some states do not allow or recognize domestic partnerships. 

You can choose domestic partnership for the following reasons: 

  • If you are concerned about the marriage tax penalty
  • If you wish to escape the hassles of a divorce in the event of a separation 
  • If you’ve been married before and had a traumatic experience
  • If you are concerned about qualifying for government benefits
  • If either of you feels that marriage is an overly religious ceremony 
  • If you disagree with the idea of marriage and think of it as a historically patriarchal institution

Key Pointers

  • The main benefit of domestic partnership is that there is no marriage tax penalty
  • You can legally adopt your domestic partner’s children
  • Domestic partnership has less benefits than marriage

Domestic partnership isn’t the same as simply living together with your partner. You need to check if you are eligible and qualified for a domestic relationship. You need to fill out some paperwork from the Secretary of State. Once your application is notarized, you will have to pay the applicable fee and submit your form. The state will get back to you when they officialize your partnership. 


1. Is boyfriend a domestic partner?

A boyfriend can become your domestic partner only when you legally submit the forms. You need to share a common residence. They need to shoulder the responsibilities of the house in order to qualify as a domestic partner.

2. Can domestic partner gets married?

Yes, domestic partners can get married whenever they want. Domestic partnership and marriage have different rights under the law. If you want to move from domestic partnership to marriage, then you can do so by registering for marriage legally. 

3. Can opposite sex couples be in domestic relationships?

Even though domestic partnership was established for same-gender couples, opposite-gender couples can also register to be in such relationships. 

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