Though the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision granting marriage equality for same-sex couples, there is still confusion around the available options for couples. Others have already formalized their partnerships in some other way and wonder if there is any need to get married.
Each state has laws regulating the rights and responsibilities of couples and their children. New York provides a way to register as a domestic partnership, legalizing the arrangement and providing certain rights to the couple, so how is it different from marriage?
Differences in the definitions
New York embraces marriage equality regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Neither matters in a domestic partnership or marriage. State law defines a domestic partner in much the same way as a spouse.
The definition includes the clarification that if two people cannot be legally married, they are also not allowed to form a domestic partnership legally. New York does not recognize common law relationships unless the couple establishes the connection in a state that does. To gain legal recognition as a domestic partnership, NY couples must formally register with the courts.
Differences in the rights granted
The primary difference between the two arrangements is in the rights the state grants to the couple. Though domestic partners have some rights, spouses have more. The most significant benefits of a marriage over a domestic partnership are in the rules for inheritance and establishing child custody and visitation rights after dissolution.
Both arrangements are legal in New York if the couple takes the required steps to formalize their relationship. However, couples may wish to consider marriage for additional rights, especially where children are involved.