Effective October 1, 2009, Nevada became one of only a handful of states that recognize a type of civil contract called a domestic partnership. Under this law, domestic partners, same-sex or otherwise, have the same rights, protections, benefits, responsibilities and obligations as spouses. But, what does this really mean for you? Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about the different parts of the Nevada Domestic Partnership Act. In this first installment, I'll tell you about registering your domestic partnership and the general rights and obligations of domestic partners.
Creating the Domestic Partnership. The best part of the new law is how easy it is to create such an arrangement. If you are unrelated, unmarried, share a common residence (even part-time), are both over the age of 18 and competent, all you have to do is file a registration form with the Secretary of State and pay a $50 registration fee. Once you register, what do you get? A certificate showing that you are registered domestic partners and most, but not all, of the benefits and obligations of a married couple.
What You Get. A relationship nearly identical to a marriage! A domestic partner has the same rights, protections and benefits and is subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties that are granted to and imposed upon a spouse. In Nevada, this means that, once you register your domestic partnership, all property acquired is community property. This means that each partner is entitled to 1/2 of all property and earnings that the other acquires. On the flip side, domestic partners also become responsible for the debt incurred by the other during the domestic partnership.
You also get inheritance rights. If your domestic partner dies, you are treated as the surviving spouse and can inherit all or a portion of your partner's assets. You also may be entitled to receive “spousal” support if you dissolve your partnership or during a probate proceeding.
Finally, because you will be legally related to your partner, you will be treated as a family member for purposes of hospital visitation.
What You Don't Get. You will not necessarily receive any employer provided or offered benefits. Nothing in the domestic partnership law requires employers to provide or offer health care or any other benefits to or for a domestic partner. This includes public as well as private employers.
A domestic partnership is not recognized by the federal government. This means that you cannot take advantage of tax laws that benefit married couples. You cannot file a joint income tax return and you cannot avoid or delay estate and gift taxes like you can if you are married. Neither is a domestic partnership recognized in other states. Nevada is only one of only about 11 states that recognize some form of domestic partnership agreement. So, if you move, you may be in the same position with respect to property and other obligations as if you didn't have an agreement.
There are a lot of nuances to Nevada's domestic partnership law. Will it be right for you?