Although same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Colorado in 2014, there are still reasons why couples (same-sex or opposite-sex) may elect to engage in cohabitation and long-term romantic relationships without getting legally married. Perhaps one partner has excessive debts that the other is hesitant to take responsibility for, or maybe the couple would be subject to tax penalties of some sort if they were to marry, just for example.
For parties that live together and act as a married couple in everything but name, domestic partnerships are an option for legal recognition of the relationship. An experienced family lawyer can help you to understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of domestic partnership, as well as legal avenues to protect the rights of a domestic partner.
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In the state of Colorado, domestic partnerships differ from marriages in a variety of ways. Parties may register as committed partners, but this does not provide for name changes and does not affect legal and financial rights related to property, contract, inheritance, custody, benefits, or other legal entitlements related to marriage. Essentially, all you get from registering a domestic partnership is a public record of the relationship and proof that you meet requirements for a committed partnership.
Couples can choose to register as domestic partners if they are:
- At least 18 years of age
- Unmarried, uninvolved in a civil union, and not already involved in another domestic partnership
- Competent to enter into a contract
- Sharing a common household
- Not prohibited from marriage due to blood relationship or adoption, under Colorado state law
Unfortunately, a registered domestic partnership infers no legal or financial protections for partners. You can, however, gain desired protections through a variety of legal devices, including name changes, tenancy agreements, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and dissolution agreements, just for example, all of which your legal partners at Curtis Law Firm can help you draft and finalize.
A Living Will or Durable Health Care Power of Attorney gives a trusted domestic partner the ability to make health-related decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated in some way and unable to make your own decisions, while a Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows a partner to make decisions about finances and assets in the event of incapacitation, as well as gain guardianship. Without these legal protections, biological family members will have priority in these matters.
A Last Will and Testament and various types of trusts allow you to pass on assets and items of sentimental value to a domestic partner in the event of your death. At the very least, you should consider creating a Joint Tenancy and Right of Survivorship Agreement that allows a domestic partner to inherit a shared primary residence (or other listed properties) in the event that the partner who owns the property dies.
Domestic Partnership Agreements are also advisable as a means of detailing joint ownership of property, including real estate, vehicles, joint financial accounts, and pets, as well as rights and responsibilities regarding children, and they can help in the event of dissolution or death. Dissolution Agreements are another option to explore in the event that the domestic partnership ends.
If you need help planning and executing legal protections for your domestic partner, contact the qualified professionals at Curtis Law Firm today at (720) 408-7726 to get started.
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