Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions, Same-Sex Marriages, and Other Relationships

Over the last thirty years, a multitude of legal relationships other than opposite-sex marriages have been created in the United States and in many other parts of the world, including relationships called “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships.” Because many of these non-marital legal relationships have associated legal rights and responsibilities similar to those associated with marriage, they are often referred to as “quasi-marital” relationships. Unlike marriage, these quasi-marital relationships do not enjoy uniform treatment across state or international borders.

In the last decade, legal marriage has also become available to same-sex couples in many states and foreign countries. Very recently, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Many quasi-marital relationship statuses were created for the benefit of same-sex couples, but some are also available to opposite-sex couples, particularly seniors. In some instances, couples may be both married and part of a quasi-marital relationship at the same time.

Many same-sex couples have lived in marital-type relationships without having the legal right to marry or even to enter into a quasi-marital relationship. Depending on the specific facts and circumstances of such a couple’s relationship, such couples may have quasi-marital rights and responsibilities.

With all of the evolution and change in this area, there has been much confusion and misinformation regarding the implications of the panoply of newly created legal relationships. The law is a moving target in this area, and the overlap and interaction of the various possible legal relationship statuses and the facts of any particular relationship are likely to create a multitude of legal issues and questions for those involved in such relationships or contemplating entering into such relationships.

Individuals considering entering into a quasi-marital relationship will want to have lawyers with the knowledge, expertise and experience to answer all of their questions and to aggressively pursue their interests. Jaffe and Clemens has those lawyers. Having been at the forefront of this evolving area of the law, the firm is uniquely qualified to counsel and represent those in domestic partnerships, civil unions or same-sex marriages. Parties who have been in civil unions, domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages will be well-protected and well-advised by Jaffe and Clemens with respect to the rights and responsibilities that flow from these relationship statuses. The firm can prepare pre- partnership agreements, post-partnership agreements, and other relationship agreements in order to define a couple’s expected rights and responsibilities, and to help avoid potential disputes between parties who have availed themselves of the various legal relationships other than marriage. Jaffe and Clemens is also ready to aggressively pursue the rights of a party to one of these relationships at the time of a dissolution or termination of the relationship, including through creative argument to further the existing law.