History of Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions in New Jersey
New Jersey lawmakers signed the Domestic Partnership Act on January 12, 2004. This act afforded same-sex couples certain benefits and responsibilities. Initially, same-sex couples could enter a domestic partnership provided they were 18 years or older and met certain criteria. However, the Civil Union Act, effective February 19, 2007, limited domestic partnerships to couples over the age of 62. Domestic partnerships registered prior to that date are still considered valid.
Dissolving These Types of Relationships
Domestic partnerships, civil unions, and same-sex marriages differ slightly. For this reason, dissolutions are handled uniquely for each type.
Same-sex couples over the age of 62 may enter a domestic partnership provided that they share a common residence and share joint responsibility for one another’s common welfare. You must be able to provide evidence to satisfy certain criteria. Evidence may include, among others, a joint bank account, joint ownership of a vehicle, or shared responsibility for basic living expenses. Partners must both be responsible in providing fundamental living expenses and, if one partner cannot provide, the other partner must take care of them. In some cases, palimony may be awarded to one partner in order to make up for economic hardship after the relationship ends.
During the dissolution of domestic partnerships, having a dedicated attorney by your side is important in making sure there are no missteps.
To dissolve a domestic partnership, a complaint for dissolution must be filed with the Superior Court. This will include a reason why dissolution is being pursued. Following termination, you will be responsible for notifying any entity that you notified upon entering the partnership of your change in status.
Civil unions are legally recognized unions between same-sex couples. Couples assume all of the legal rights and responsibilities that married couples do. These types of relationships are dissolved just like marriages. You will file a complaint for dissolution with the Superior Court. Upon termination, the rights and obligations afforded will be the same as that of a divorced couple.
Two members of the same sex can legally marry in New Jersey and same-sex couples are given the same rights in divorce as traditional couples. However, because same-sex marriage has only been legal for a short time, there is little case law to draw precedent from. Distribution of assets in these cases, for example, is a fairly new legal area.
Common Issues Encountered in the Dissolution Process
The dissolution process often presents several roadblocks. Common issues include:
- Determining Grounds for Dissolution – Most of the grounds for dissolution applicable in divorce are also applicable in domestic partnerships and civil unions. These include abuse, adultery, and irreconcilable differences, among others.
- Child Custody, Support, and Visitation – Same-sex parents often encounter situations that opposite-sex parents do not. For instance, non-biological parents may retain parental rights such as child support and custody if they have acted as a parent.
- Partner Support – Alimony is not often considered when a domestic partnership ends. When a civil union ends, however, the same rules apply as for a married couple in divorce.
- Property Rights – Equitable distribution is likewise rarely considered when domestic partnerships end. Property acquired during a civil union, on the other hand, is considered to be the property of both partners. The state will typically divide properties in a manner that is determined just.
Choose Personalized, Comprehensive Legal Services
If your domestic partnership is ending, contact attorney Jeffrey Goldblatt for uniquely tailored legal representation. Visit us online today or call (732) 238-8700 to schedule an appointment.