How to Create a Domestic Partnership Agreement

By Nichole Hoskins

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The number of couples who choose to forego marriage is growing. Whether a couple objects to marriage, or the rules of their state of residence prevent them from marrying legally, a couple may still want to establish themselves in a permanent but unmarried relationship. Before setting up a household together, many cohabiting couples choose to protect themselves and their property by creating a domestic partnership agreement.

The Domestic Partnership Contract

The domestic partnership agreement is a contract that serves much the same purpose as a prenuptial agreement. The domestic partnership agreement can be used to clarify the financial terms of a relationship, deal with issues of joint property ownership and set the expectations for shared household duties. Because a registered domestic partnership includes many of the same rights and responsibilities as a marriage, it is especially useful for couples looking to establish a permanent partnership and ensure that the couple and not the courts decide how their personal and financial affairs are handled.

Civil Unions and Domestic Partnership Agreements

Several states offer nonmarital designations that offer a variety of rights to unmarried couples that are similar to those enjoyed by married people. In some states, only unmarried same-sex couples can establish a civil union. In other states, any couple can register a domestic partnership. Either way, couples planning to enter into a registered domestic partnership or civil union are wise to to create a domestic partnership agreement before making it official. Having the agreement in place will protect the interests of each party.

What to Include in a Domestic Partnership Agreement

Like prenuptial agreements, domestic partnership agreements are typically used by couples who wish to keep some or all of their financial assets and liabilities separate after the couple merges households. A good agreement is very specific, and it includes everything from checking accounts to real estate to business holdings -- and even personal effects, such as jewelry and furnishings. The agreement can define who is entitled to what property in the event the relationship ends or a partner dies. The agreement is also useful for discussing how household responsibilities like home maintenance and child care should be divided.

Drafting the Domestic Partnership Agreement

Before drafting the agreement, couples typically discuss what terms they want their specific agreement to include. You can use an attorney, or you can choose an online legal services provider to draft a domestic partner agreement without the expense of hiring an attorney, especially if you are both clearly in agreement about what you want the agreement to say.