Pittsburgh Domestic Partnership Lawyer
You may have built a strong and loving family without you and your partner going through a formal and legal marriage ceremony. While you have every right to build a relationship and family any way you see fit, your rights and responsibilities in regard to your partner will differ than if you two were legally married. The rights and duties you and your partner have toward one another will generally be based on the contracts you enter together with help from a Pittsburgh marriage lawyer. For instance, you may purchase a home together, putting both of you on the title and making you both responsible for the mortgage.
However, you will not be granted the same property rights given to legally married spouses. If you are unmarried, you do not have the right to dissolve your relationship through a divorce. You do not have the right to have your commingled assets equitably divided by the court based on Pennsylvania law. You do not have the right to seek spousal support. Also, if one of you were to pass away, you do not automatically have the right to inherit from each other. To overcome these issues, you can create a domestic partnership agreement, utilize estate planning tools, and ensure you both have parental rights over your kids.
Creating Domestic Partnership Agreements
If you and your partner would like to give each other more rights than you are granted under the law as an unmarried couple, you can do so through a domestic partnership agreement, also known as a cohabitation agreement. You can enter into this with your partner no matter your respective genders. All you need is to both be 18 years or older and legally competent to enter into a contract.
This type of contract dictates the rights and duties you have toward one another and how you will handle issues like the family home and the division of property, if the relationship ends. The contract can address bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement plans, investment portfolios, real estate, family-owned businesses, personal property, and more. If you or your partner has education, credit card, or other debt acquired prior to the relationship, a cohabitation agreement can limit each other’s responsibility toward that debt. It can also address how debt acquired during the relationship will be handled.
If there is likely to be a significant income difference between you and your partner at the end of the relationship, then you two can address “palimony” within your agreement. Though not a legal term, palimony is analogous to spousal support for unmarried couples. You can specify whether one of you may be entitled to support if the relationship ends, including how much and for how long.
Limitations to Domestic Partnership Agreements
While a domestic partnership agreement can give you and your partner many rights, it cannot completely take the place of a legal marriage. For example, this contract will not make you a married couple for the purpose of being on one another’s health insurance policies. Most employer-paid health insurance coverage will not allow you to add an unmarried partner. However, you should check your specific policy to be sure.
Expanding Your Family
Unmarried couples choose to expand their families in a variety of ways, including caring for other family members, adoption, and surrogacy. If you and your partner are unmarried and have children together through these methods, you should speak with an attorney to ensure you both have parental rights over your kids. This matters during the relationship as well as in case you and your partner go your separate ways. If you are caring for another minor family member, you should look into adoption, guardianship, or kinship caregiving. You and your partner may choose to adopt together or one of you may adopt the biological child of the other. Also, you and your partner may use surrogacy to have a child, which will require a surrogacy contract, a pre-birth order for both of you to be on the birth certificate or one of you to adopt the child.
However you decide to start or grow your family, speak with a domestic partnership lawyer to ensure you are both considered parents under the law and would have a right to custody if you were to end your relationship. A cohabitation agreement can discuss the custody of children and child support, however, this is always reviewable by the court system. The arrangement you agree to at the time of making the contract may be overridden in court down the road.
Estate Planning Tools
In addition to the domestic partnership agreement, you can use a number of estate planning tools to ensure that you and your partner can keep your property in the family and inherit from one another when you pass. You can recognize each other in your wills and name each other as the primary beneficiaries of accounts, retirement plans, investments, and life insurance policies. These steps in addition to a partnership agreement can confirm your intentions for what happens later in life.
Contact a Pittsburgh Domestic Partnership Lawyer for Advice
If you and your partner want to solidify your relationship without getting married, contact an experienced and knowledgeable domestic partnership lawyer at Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC. Attorney Anthony Piccirilli understands the nuances and complications of building a life together without the automatic rights of marriage. We can help you map out and formalize your rights and responsibilities toward one another and protect your respective futures in a number of ways.
Call us at (412) 471-5100 to schedule an initial confidential consultation.