Domestic partnership is a city, county, state, or employer-recognized status that may be available to same-sex couples and, sometimes, opposite-sex couples. Although similar to marriage, a domestic partnership does not confer any of the 1,138 rights afforded to married couples by the federal government. Domestic partnerships in the United States are determined by each state or local jurisdiction, so there is no nation-wide consistency on the rights, responsibilities and benefits afforded to domestic partners.
Couples who live in localities that do not permit civil unions or domestic partnerships may voluntarily enter into a private, informal, domestic partnership agreement which specifies their mutual obligations. However, this involves drawing up a number of separate legal documents, including wills, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, child custody agreements, etc., and is best done with the guidance of an attorney familiar with the laws involved.
In any case, without legislation to enforce the agreement, all such provisions of the partnership may be ignored by hospitals, healthcare professionals or other persons, and may be held invalid by state courts in disputes over child custody or over a deceased partner’s estate.
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