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Domestic partnerships versus marriages in Massachusetts

When you're considering your future with your partner in Massachusetts, you have a number of options. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples are able to obtain licenses to marry in Massachusetts, but some couples may want to opt for a domestic partnership or civil union instead. What's the difference?

A domestic partnership is similar to marriage; it applies to unmarried couples who live together, and it doesn't only apply to same-sex couples. It's true that many of the registered domestic partnerships have been between same-sex couples, especially in states where same-sex marriage is not yet legal. Interestingly, some states only allow this arrangement for homosexual couples or heterosexual couples only if one of the pair is over the age of 62, while in other states anyone may apply.

So, is a domestic partnership the same thing as a marriage? Not legally. It does provide some benefits that are similar, though. Domestic partnerships, also known as civil unions in some states, provide partners with the ability to get healthcare coverage through a family health insurance policy, visitation rights in hospitals and prisons, the right to bereavement leave, and the right to family leave if one partner falls ill.

To register, the partners must be over the age of 18 and unmarried. The relationship must be declared at a courthouse or other governmental office. There may also be a fee associated with the domestic partnership's registration. If you have questions about how to proceed or what rights you have under a domestic partnership, speak with someone familiar with family law. You may have more protections than you previously thought.

Source: FindLaw, "What is a Domestic Partnership?" Nov. 20, 2014

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