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Differences between a domestic partnership and marriage

In general, domestic partnerships in Maryland are similar to marriages. However, they do not share all the same benefits. Depending on the local jurisdiction, domestic partnerships may be limited to senior couples or couples with at least one partner over 62 years old. Some places refer to domestic partnerships as "civil unions."

While a domestic partnership and a marriage are not identical, they enjoy some of the same benefits. Advantages vary from state to state. For example, a couple in a domestic partnership may have the ability to get a family health insurance policy. They may have the right to work leave for a sick partner as well as bereavement leave. One may also have the right to visit their partner in a hospital or jail. However, they do not have all the rights of a marriage, and some states place more limitations on them than others. This is why many same-sex couples married as soon as they were legally able to do so.

Couples who want to be domestic partners must declare that they have a serious relationship at a designated government office, such as a courthouse. For example, in the District of Columbia, residents who wish to register as domestic partners must appear in person at the Department of Health, submit an application together and pay a fee. They must also prove that they are both unmarried adults who share a permanent residence.

A same-sex couple that is looking into marrying or registering for a domestic partnership should consider working with an attorney experienced in family law. A lawyer may be able to help with legal paperwork related to the domestic partnership, such as property division and wills.

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