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Can domestic partnership agreements protect unmarried partners?

In Alaska, some couples choose to live together instead of marry. Even so, some unmarried partners have concerns related to issues that may arise if their relationship comes to an end. Some such partnerships last for many years, and couples accumulate assets that may give rise to contention in the event of separations.

Unmarried couples may want to protect themselves by establishing domestic partnerships. Such a partnership will allow both partners benefits – both economic and non-economic – similar to those that married couples have. However, domestic partners will be excluded from many federal rights afforded to married couples. To be valid, a partnership agreement will have to be signed that stipulates the contractual responsibilities and legal rights of each party.

Entering into a domestic partnership may prevent the disillusionment that can come from realizing too late that there will be no entitlement to a fair share of accumulated wealth and assets, particularly if property is registered in the name of the other partner. Matters that are commonly addressed in domestic partnerships include the fair division of property and other assets acquired during the relationship, and how retirement contributions will be divided. Directives related to gifts and inheritances may be included, along with agreements about chores and household duties. How income will be shared can also be addressed.

When there are children who result from a union between unmarried partners, matters related to child custody and visitation rights may also be addressed in a domestic partnership agreement. The prospect of drawing up such an agreement may seem overwhelming, but there is help available. An experienced Alaska family law attorney who focuses on protecting the rights of individuals in unmarried unions can assist in drafting an agreement that will cover all relative issues, while also protecting the best interests of the children, when applicable.

Source: hrc.org, "Domestic Partnership Agreement", Accessed on May 22, 2015

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