What Is a Domestic Partnership, and How Is it Different from Marriage?

Domestic partnership is recognized under New York State and New York City laws. The City of New York states, “Partnership Law recognizes the diversity of family configurations, including lesbian, gay, and other non-traditional couples.”

When you decide to share your life with another person in New York, there are many options available. You no longer need to get married to access the same rights as a wedded spouse. However, there are a few differences between marriage and domestic partnership. Likewise, there are differences between standard divorce and common law divorce. Some of these differences affect asset division and other issues that usually need to be decided at the end of a marriage.

Registering a Domestic Partnership in NYC

In New York, domestic partnerships can be legally registered so that partners and children can have a variety of rights.

In order to register a domestic partnership in NYC, the following requirements must be met:

  • Both partners are New York City residents, or one of them is employed by NYC.
  • Both partners are 18 or older.
  • Neither partner is married or has registered for a domestic partnership with another person within the last six months.
  • The partners live together and are in a committed relationship with each other.

Domestic Partnership Registration Procedure

To initiate domestic partnership registration in New York, you must go to www.nyc.gov/cupid to schedule an appointment.

On your scheduled appointment date, you and your partner must appear at the designated Office of the City Clerk of New York with a valid ID. To complete your application, you must pay the application fee.

Finally, both partners must sign a Domestic Partnership affidavit, which is notarized for free. After completing this process, a Certificate of Domestic Partnership will be issued and presented to you and your partner.

NY Domestic Partnership Basics

Before same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, same-sex couples used to get registered for a domestic partnership regularly. Following legalization, large numbers of non-heterosexual New York residents began opting for marriage, and the number of domestic partnership registrations was significantly reduced.

Differences Between Marriage and Domestic Partnership

Though domestic partners have some of the same rights as married couples, there are a few vital differences.

  • The federal government recognizes marriage but does not recognize domestic partnerships.
  • If your domestic partner passes away, you won’t receive any applicable federal benefits you would receive if you had been married to them.
  • Your domestic partner’s immigration status is not affected by the partnership, so, entering into the partnership will not allow them to get a green card.
  • While there is a waiting period to get married in New York, domestic partnerships are effective immediately.
  • Ending a marriage requires a divorce, while a domestic partnership can simply be ended by moving to another state.

The nuances of domestic partnership legislation can be complex. To understand which rules apply to your own partnership arrangement, talk to an experienced New York domestic partnership attorney.

Similarities Between Marriage and Domestic Partnership

New York residents who have registered for a domestic partnership have many important rights. Whether you are legally married or in a recognized domestic partnership, you/your partner will have the following rights and benefits:

  • Ability to file joint state tax returns
  • Access to NYC Housing privileges
  • Adoption rights
  • Bereavement leave and child care leave for NYC employees
  • Health benefits from the City of New York
  • Health insurance, death benefits, life insurance
  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Prison visitation rights
  • Tenancy and occupancy rights

Domestic Partnership with Children

When a child is born in the context of a domestic partnership, the law treats them the same as children born to married parents.

When the child is born, they are assumed to be the legitimate child of both domestic partners. Likewise, children adopted by domestic partners have the same rights as children adopted by married parents.

If a child is born or conceived during the domestic partnership or is born 300 days after its termination, both partners will be listed on the child’s birth certificate. It is not necessary to sign an acknowledgment of paternity, undergo DNA testing, or file a paternity action in order to establish paternity in a domestic partnership.

Child and Spousal Support

When domestic partners with children split up, the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support. Likewise, the lower-wage earning partner can be eligible for spousal support.

Hiring a New York Domestic Partnership Attorney

As a domestic partner, you will likely face the same problems as any married couple, especially if the partnership is terminated. You may have to fight over custody, child support, spousal support, and visitation rights.

A domestic partnership specialist can help protect your interests and those of your children in the event of a separation.

Entering into a domestic partnership is a big step. If you decide to terminate it, you may face many challenges. Residents of the State of New York who have opted for a domestic partnership arrangement have numerous rights and obligations. Our New York divorce and domestic partnership attorneys have many years of experience handling custody, child support, and other issues relevant to domestic partnerships. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.


Naomi Schanfield

Naomi Schanfield concentrates on all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, divorce, equitable distribution, child custody and visitation, support matters, family offense disputes, and domestic violence.

To connect with Naomi: 212.682.6222 | Online

For media inquiries or speaking engagements: [hidden email]