Domestic Partner Issues and Agreements

Today’s society has become more fluid regarding relationships. Many couples are choosing not to get married. These couples live together as if they are married, but they just have not taken the steps to legally get married. Many issues arise due to such arrangements, since these individuals do not have the same rights as married couples. Experienced family law and divorce attorneys here in Guilford County deal with these types of situations fairly often and our attorneys at Woodruff Family Law Group can provide assistance regarding these issues. 

To be more detailed, Domestic Partner Agreements are agreements between two parties who are not married, but generally live together in an arrangement similar to marriage. They share properties and expenses. They may own real estate together. They may have children together, or one may adopt a child and involve the other party in the parenting. Basically, they behave as if they are married, without the legal label of being married. 

As mentioned above individuals in a domestic partnership do not have the same rights regarding their relationship that they would if they were married. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, meaning that it is presumed that all assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage will be split equally between the spouses in the event of a divorce. However, if you are not married, that same presumption does not apply. 

For example, Megan Marshall and Trevor Leady (hypothetical names) of High Point, North Carolina have been dating for 10 years, and have been living together for 8 of those years. They have had two children as a result of their relationship. Megan makes significantly more each year than Trevor, who went back to school in an effort to change his career. The home that they have been living in for most of this relationship was purchased by Trevor during the relationship and is in his name only. He has a large mortgage outstanding on the property.  

If they split, Trevor would not be entitled to any portion of the income that Megan has earned throughout their long-term relationship. Trevor also would be solely liable for the home mortgage. If they were married, Trevor would have the right to half of the income that Megan earned during the course of the marriage. If they had been married, Megan may also have been liable on the home mortgage, since both parties are liable for debts that are incurred during the marriage. 

Children: North Carolina is quite advanced in this area and a domestic partner may have custody rights if the parent (or adoptive) parent of the child has actually allowed the domestic partner to parent the child in question. This is one instance where the rights of a married couple and the rights of a couple in a domestic partnership are similar, although not exactly the same. 

As you can see, a couple in a domestic partnership does not have the same rights as a couple in a marriage. Along with the legal status of marriage, comes legal rights and liabilities on both sides. To work around this distinction between the two types of relationships, an agreement can be written to protect the assets and liabilities of the domestic partnership in the event of a split. An agreement can also be written at the time of the split covering the issues.

An experienced family law and divorce attorney can assist you in drafting such an agreement. Having an attorney at your side ensures that the agreement protects your interests in the event of a split. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation regarding these matters, or any of the many family legal services that we provide.