NJ Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions and Same-Sex Marriages
Comprehensive legal advice to same-sex couples on NJ domestic partnerships, civil unions, same-sex marriages.
Domestic Partnerships in New Jersey
New Jersey was one of the first states to implement a domestic partnership scheme via the New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act, N.J.S.A. 26:8A-1, et seq., which went into effect in 2004. The Domestic Partnership Act afforded same-sex partners and opposite sex partners (age 62 or older) some of the same rights and responsibilities enjoyed by married couples, including property rights, child custody and retirement/healthcare benefits. The following criteria must be met to register for a domestic partnership in New Jersey:
- The partners share a common residence in New Jersey or any other jurisdiction provided that at least one of the applicants is a member of a New Jersey State-administered retirement system;
- Both persons are jointly responsible for each other’s common welfare as evidenced by joint financial arrangements or joint ownership of real or personal property;
- Both persons agree to be jointly responsible for each other’s basic living expenses during the domestic partnership;
- Neither person is a party to a marriage or civil union recognized by New Jersey law or a member of a domestic partnership with another individual;
- The persons are not related to each other by blood or affinity up to and including the fourth degree of consanguinity(simply stated, individuals who are first cousins or more distantly related);
- The partners chose to share each other’s lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring;
- Neither partner has legally terminated another domestic partnership within the last 180 days. (This prohibition does not apply when the previous partnership ended due to the death of the other partner).
As discussed in more detail below, New Jersey has since enacted civil union and same-sex marriage laws. But, domestic partnerships remain available to partners age 62 or older, whether same-sex or opposite sex.
New Jersey Civil Unions
In February, 2007, the New Jersey Civil Union Act, N.J.S.A. 37:1-28, et seq., took effect. Under the Act, same-sex couples who enter into a civil union are provided with many of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Some of the rights and responsibilities afforded to civil union partners which are comparable to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples include: inheritance rights; family leave benefits; state and local tax benefits; rights relating to health insurance and pension benefits; not having to testify against a partner in a court of law; wrongful death rights and worker’s compensation rights; and liability for partner’s debts. The following criteria must be met for entry of a civil union in New Jersey:
- Not be a party to another civil union, domestic partnership or marriage in this state or that is recognized by this state;
- Be of the same sex; and
- Be at least 18 years of age or, if under 18, obtain parental consent. Applicants under age 16 must obtain parental consent and have the consent approved in writing by a judge of the Superior Court, Family Division.
Although civil unions have expanded the rights of same-sex couples in New Jersey, these rights and responsibilities are not inclusive of all those afforded to heterosexual married couples.
Same-Sex Marriage in NJ
On September 27, 2013, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry in New Jersey. Judge Jacobson emphasized the constitutional implications of denying same-sex couples the right to marry finding that, “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”Although Governor Chris Christie’s administration appealed the decision, the challenge to gay marriage was dropped by the Governor’s administration in October, 2013. Same-sex marriage became effective in New Jersey as of October 21, 2013. Since that time, homosexual couples in New Jersey have been able to obtain a formal marriage and enjoy all of the same rights and responsibilities extended to heterosexual married couples. Although not every state has followed suit, Judge Jacobson’s decision brought total marriage equality to the Garden State.
As part of our extensive Family Law practice, the attorneys at Adinolfi & Packman, P.A.,, can assist in the process of registering for a domestic partnership or civil union. Our South Jersey family law lawyers provide preemptive counseling prior to registration and advise clients on their rights, options and the possible consequences of their decisions. We believe that an informed client is best equipped to make choices that are in his or her best interest. To this end, our attorneys provide personal service, prompt communication and confidential handling of all inquiries.
Adinolfi & Packman family law attorneys can also develop, prepare, and implement comprehensive agreements regarding domestic partnerships, civil unions, and same-sex marriages. Like a pre or post-nuptial agreement for married couples, same-sex relationship agreements can cover a wide array of issues including, but not limited to, child custody and parenting time, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution, tax issues and other financial obligations. Certain issues are unique to same-sex relationships, namely, stepparent adoptions and the impact on civil union partners who decide to move out of New Jersey to another state where civil unions may not be recognized legally. By preparing an agreement addressing these issues in advance of registration, our attorneys help clients avoid costly litigation upon the dissolution of the relationship.
Contact Adinolfi & Packman: Experienced South Jersey Family Law Lawyers
For a detailed discussion of the benefits and potential difficulties of New Jersey same-sex relationship agreements and registration, please contact the Haddonfield law offices of Adinolfi & Packman, P.A., for an initial consultation with an experienced Family Law attorney.
Please contact Cheryl Betten, Adinolfi & Packman, P.A., Firm Administrator, at our Haddonfield offices by dialing 856.428.8334 x 258, and she will gladly schedule an initial consultation for you with one of our experienced Cherry Hill Family Lawyers after a conflicts check is performed. An experienced and highly credentialed New Jersey divorce lawyer is available today to discuss your immediate legal needs.