Domestic Partnership Agreement FAQ
The New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act went into effect July 10, 2004. It allows same sex couples over 18 years of age and opposite sex couples over 62 years of age to enter into a Domestic Partnership.
What are the requirements for forming a Domestic Partnership?
There are 9 requirements that must be met. The couple:
- must be the same sex and over 18 years of age OR be the opposite sex and over 62 years of age.
- must share a common residence in New Jersey (or 1 partner must be a member of a New Jersey State administered retirement system).
- must show joint responsibility for each other by proving, for example, a common bank account, joint ownership of real estate, or Wills in which they name each other.
- agree to be responsible for each other’s basic living expenses during the Domestic Partnership.
- must not be blood relatives of each other (the same as for marriage).
- agree to share their lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring.
- register by filing an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with the local Register of Vital Statistics.
In addition neither person:
- may be married or be a domestic partner of someone else.
- may have been in a domestic partnership that ended within the past 180 days other than by the death of the other partner.
What are the benefits of being Domestic Partners?
- are entitled to protection from discrimination due to their status as domestic partners in employment, housing, lending and other areas under the Law Against Discrimination.
- can claim the other as a dependent for state income taxes starting in 2004.
- are not subject to New Jersey Inheritance Tax on inheritances from each other.
- are entitled to visit each other in the hospital.
- are entitled to make medical decisions for their incapacitated Domestic Partner.
- consent or refuse to allow organ donations for their deceased partner.
- are entitled to benefits under State health plans if their Domestic Partner is an employee of the State of New Jersey State (e.g. police officers and firefighters).
- are entitled to State pension benefits if their Domestic Partner is an employee of the State of New Jersey State.
Private employers may, but are not required, to offer health and other benefits to their employees’ domestic partners.
Are there drawbacks to being a Domestic Partner?
In a word, yes. Beyond those found in any committed relationship, two of the major drawbacks are:
- Domestic Partners must have their relationship terminated by a Court on the same grounds as for granting a divorce. However, there are no provisions for:
- dividing common property (each Domestic Partner is considered to keep their own separate property and property earned or acquired during the Domestic Partnership remains their own); and
- providing support for the lower or non-earner partner (similar to alimony).
What are significant areas that the Domestic Partnership Act does not provide for?
- Your Domestic Partner has no right to inherit from you. Unless you have a Will naming your Domestic Partner, he or she receives nothing on your death.
- Your Domestic Partner has no say in your funeral arrangements unless you have a Will naming him or her to make those decisions.
- The New Jersey law has no effect on federal laws so Domestic Partners may not file a joint federal income tax return.
- There is no federal estate tax exemption for property passing to a Domestic Partner. Therefore, your estate may pay federal estate taxes even if you leave everything to your Domestic Partner. Proper planning can reduce or eliminate these taxes.
- Your estate is still subject to a New Jersey Estate Tax on all amounts above $675,000 even if you leave everything to your Domestic Partner. Again, proper planning can reduce or eliminate these taxes.
- Your Domestic Partner has no “parental” rights or obligations with respect to your children. These rights can be granted in your Will.
- Your Domestic Partner has no right to a “spousal elective share” of your estate (a right to take one-third of your estate if left less than that from your estate) and may be completely disinherited.
- It is unclear, but Domestic Partners probably do not have the right to sue based on the injury or wrongful death of their Domestic Partner.
- Despite several reports in newspapers and by some commentators, Domestic Partners may not file a joint New Jersey income tax return.