The domestic partnership registry still exists in Minneapolis, even now that same-sex marriage is legal here. Under the law, unmarried couples -- same-sex or opposite-sex -- can form a bond stronger than cohabitation but not quite as powerful as marriage. As we have discussed over the past couple of weeks, the main benefit granted by the city is the right to visit a domestic partner in a hospital or care facility. Most of the other benefits are at the discretion of a partner's employer.
Couples break up, though. Just as married couples must follow certain procedures when divorcing, so must domestic partners. It may not be a marriage, but a person is limited to one domestic partner at a time. If one partner finds someone else, the partnership must end before another partnership or a marriage can take place. We should note here that domestic partners who want to marry each other need not terminate the partnership.
The partnership automatically ends if one of the partners dies. To end a domestic partnership voluntarily, one of the partners must notify the city clerk in writing. That's it. The city clerk will contact the other partner. There is a short waiting period -- 45 days after one partner notifies the other in writing that he or she has written to the city clerk, or 45 days after the city clerk notifies the non-filing partner -- and then it's over.
Things are never that simple, though. The parties will have to work out child custody and support, property division and any other support arrangements as well. The domestic partnership registry does not grant rights of inheritance, either. State law governs those matters, and state law does not recognize domestic partnerships except in the context of terminating health care directives.
As we said, though, marriage and domestic partnership are contracts. If a married couple does not have an prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, the state's marriage and dissolution of marriage laws step in. If domestic partners do not have a partnership or cohabitation agreement, the state's contract laws fill in the gaps. Well, most gaps.
For these reasons and so many others, it may be wise to consult with an attorney before entering into any long-term legal relationship.
Source: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Code of Ordinances, Title 7 - Civil Rights, Chapter 142. Civil Rights And Domestic Partnerships