Before you take the plunge and register your domestic partnership, you should know what you are getting yourself into. Aside from the things your mother will warn you about, domestic partners possess just about every legal right and responsibility as married couples, for better or for worse!
Property Rights – Share and Share Alike
Nevada is a community property state. That means that one-half (1/2) of everything you earn while you are a registered domestic partnership will belong to your domestic partner. Living in a community property state also means that domestic partners are financially responsible for each others debts incurred during the partnership. For example, if you have a domestic partnership and one of you owns a business, the creditors for that business can seek repayment from both partners. Likewise, even if only one of you signed for a credit card after you became domestic partners, the other partner can be held responsible for the debt. Finally, in Nevada, spouses have certain legal obligations to financially care for the other. These legal obligations may be applied to domestic partners as well.
A Rose By Any Other Name
Unlike in other states, when you register your domestic partnership, a partner does not automatically get a name change. If you want to take your partner’s name, you will need to petition the court to approve a change.
And Baby Makes 3, 4, 5 . . .
The parent/child relationship in a domestic partnership is nearly the same as for married couples. The natural born child of one partner creates a presumption that both partners are parents. Of course, as in any other case, there may be issues with the other biological parent and you may have to go to court to terminate parental rights. However, the Nevada Domestic Partnership Act should now make it easier for same-sex couples to adopt. The process will be the same as for any other adoption, but hopefully the legal recognition of same-sex couples will pave a smoother way.
As with all relationships, domestic partnerships will sometimes end. Domestic partners must go through dissolution proceedings just like married couples except in very limited circumstances. If your partnership has been registered for less than six years, you have no children which are part of the partnership, agree to the division of property and debt and waive your rights to support and judicial proceedings, then you can just file a form with the Secretary of State terminating your partnership.
Things To Consider Before You Register
Because domestic partnerships are a creature of state law, federal tax laws that benefit married couples are not available for domestic partners. You should consult an attorney before registering your domestic partnership to discuss income, gift and estate tax issues. Based on your individual circumstances, you and your partner may want to create a Domestic Partnership Agreement (“DPA”) where you can set out your rights and responsibilities for property and debts. In the event of dissolution or tax questions, the DPA could save you a lot of headache, not to mention money!