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11th Jan 2024

Annulment Cost

16th Oct 2023

Types Of Bankruptcy

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Supervised Visitation

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Bankruptcy Exemptions:

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Physical Custody

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Sole Custody

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Joint Custody

12th Jun 2023

Domestic Partnerships

Not every happy, committed couple chooses to get married. For their own reasons, some couples choose to cohabitate. Some couples may legally formalize their relationship to receive some of the benefits married couples enjoy. They may file for a domestic partnership or a civil union. In some states, however, there is no alternative legally recognized relationship. But any unmarried couple can create a cohabitation agreement on their own. This is essentially just a contract between two parties.

A cohabitation agreement clarifies the rights and responsibilities of each person in the relationship. It documents how finances, assets, and debts will be handled during the relationship. And depending on what the couple wishes to include in the document, it can do more.

FindLaw's Domestic Partnerships section provides information about these alternatives to marriage. Review the links below to learn about the benefits of domestic partnership and civil union, state laws, and how to start and end a relationship.

What Is a Domestic Partnership?

A domestic partnership is a legally recognized form of a committed relationship. Not all states recognize domestic partnerships within a legal context. The details of domestic partnerships may differ by state and municipality.

According to the National Conferences of State Legislatures, these states recognize domestic partnerships:

  • California

  • District of Columbia

  • Hawaii (allows for reciprocal beneficiaries)

  • Maine

  • Nevada

  • Oregon

  • Washington

  • Wisconsin

Some municipalities recognize domestic partnerships even though their state does not. Individual businesses may recognize domestic partnerships for purposes of employee benefits, even if the states in which they operate does not.

Domestic partnerships became particularly significant during the push for same-sex marriage rights. Many states and cities offered domestic partnerships when same-sex marriages weren't yet legal. To make it official, partners need to file a Domestic Partnership Agreement. They usually must pay a filing fee to the local government.

What Is a Civil Union?

Civil unions extended some of the legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples. Since the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court in 2015, civil unions have waned in popularity. Only Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Vermont still recognize civil unions. The federal government does not consider civil unions to be the legal equivalent of marriage.

Why Domestic Partnership Instead of Marriage?

Why would a couple choose a domestic partnership instead of just getting married? Most likely, there are personal reasons for avoiding marriage. They may feel there are too many societal or family obligations that come with marriage. They may have been part of a nasty divorce and are now shy of repeating a past mistake. Domestic partnerships are easier to end.

There can also be financial benefits to avoiding marriage. Couples where both partners are high earners can avoid the “marriage penalty" when it comes to taxes. A cohabiting partner receiving alimony may continue to receive alimony. This varies by state, however, and is an evolving area of law.

The Benefits of Domestic Partnerships

A domestic partnership provides the two parties with some of the legal benefits of marriage. But just as recognition of domestic partnerships varies by state, so do the benefits. One of the main reasons to enter a domestic partnership is to access domestic partnership benefits. This could include health and life insurance benefits, death benefits, and rights to family leave when a partner is ill.

Domestic partners may be eligible for these benefits:

  • Coverage by a partner's work-provided healthcare or insurance benefits plan

  • Eligibility for family sick leave and bereavement leave if one's partner gets sick or dies

  • Tax benefits from filing taxes as a single filer, which typically has a lower tax bracket

  • Rights to the inheritance of a domestic partner, which some states recognize but others do not (see the Social Security website for information on non-marital legal relationships)

  • The allowance of domestic partners' hospital and jail visitation rights, as recognized by some states

  • The allowance of domestic partners to make financial and medical decisions on a partner's behalf, as recognized by some states

The Downside of Domestic Partnership

There are some significant downsides to domestic partnership status compared to traditional marriage. Domestic partnerships are not uniformly recognized by the federal government or its agencies (like Social Security or the IRS). They are also not recognized by insurance companies in the same way or by all foreign governments. Additionally:

  • You cannot file your taxes jointly.

  • Your partner cannot receive your Social Security benefits after you die.

  • You may not automatically inherit from your partner. If you are named in a will and inherit, you may pay inheritance tax.

  • If an employer extends health insurance benefits to a non-employee partner, the value of that benefit is taxable income. There may also be different limits on coverage.

  • A domestic partner may not have the same rights of access, information, and medical decision-making that a spouse would have.

To understand the financial and tax implications of a domestic partnership, talk to a tax attorney.

Termination of domestic partnerships is similarly easy. One partner typically files a form with the Secretary of State or the county or city clerk. Assets in the marriage do not become community property. They remain individual assets. If both parties paid for an asset, they may work through an attorney or mediator on property division.

If there are children from the relationship, a child custody and parenting time agreement need to be negotiated. You will also need to get a child custody court order approved by a family court judge. The court might also order child support.

Hiring a Family Law Attorney

Understanding the legal and financial issues surrounding domestic partnerships can be challenging. An experienced family law attorney can provide information about domestic partnership laws in your state. They can also draft a cohabitation agreement or assist with property division and child custody. Attorneys can provide you with valuable legal advice.
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Will I Get a $1,000 Check from the Coronavirus Stimulus Package?

Government Stimulus Check Coronavirus

Will I get money from the Coronavirus Bail-Out/Stimulus Bill? Right now, Democrats and Republicans are battling over the specific provisions of the Coronavirus Stimulus Plan.  President Trump proposed a plan that would provide $250 Billion in Direct Payments to Americans.  The debate centers on the timing of payments and whether the payments should be a set amount or be flexible based on circumstances.

Government Stimulus Check Requirements

To complicate things further Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for modifications that would provide for payments of $2,000 per month to every American over 18.  While it is doubtful that Sanders’ proposed changes will be adopted, as the Bill stands right now, you would receive:

  • $1,200 if you are single and made no more than $75,000 as shown on your 2018 Federal Tax Return;

  • $2,400 per couple if you and your spouse filed as “Married Filing Jointly” and your combined income as shown on your 2018 Tax Return was no more than $150,000.

These payments reduce to zero as your reported income goes to $99,000 individually or $198,000 per couple.  Additionally, eligible families with children will receive $500 per child.  These payments are part of a bailout that also includes:

  • $50 Billion to Bail-Out the Airline Industry;

  • $150 Billion for other affected industries; and

  • Provisions for payments to Small Businesses.

Make Sure You Get Your Government Stimulus Check

This Bill is evolving and can change.  Contact the Business Lawyers at Canterbury Law Group so we can help you get all the help you are entitled to under this and any subsequent Coronavirus relief.
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