How to dissolve a domestic partnership or civil union in Michigan
When you find that perfect someone you want to spend your life with, the most common avenue in legal terms is through marriage. However, alternatives in today’s progressive world include civil unions and domestic partnerships. Interestingly, in Michigan and throughout the country, those were the only options available for same-sex couples to legally join and enjoy similar tax benefits of traditionally married couples. Domestic partnerships in Michigan are recognized on per-county or city basis, and the process is governed by specific conditions such as:
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Not currently married or involved in another domestic partnership
- No blood relation preventing marriage
- Relationship must be one of mutual support
- Share common life necessities
Domestic partnership is open to anyone meeting these guidelines by filing through the Domestic Partnership Registry.
Rights available to domestic partners
The type and extent of rights available to domestic and civil union partners vary by state but may include benefits including health insurance, dental and vision coverage. Some states require both partners to share financial responsibilities, similar to traditional marriage, while the relationship is ongoing. Most states, however, do not allow rights in regard to property, taxes, and other investment benefits.
Domestic partnership rights are classified as “no rights,” “some rights” and “all in.” Michigan is a “some rights” state, largely favoring marriage.
Dissolving a domestic partnership or civil union
Similar to the designation of rights, terminating a non-marriage partnership varies with each state. Some regions simply require a termination filing with the Secretary of State, while others must complete formal divorce or annulment processes.
Divorce and annulment are often viewed as the same thing by some people; however, there is a key difference. An annulment is a formal court decision deeming a domestic partnership null and void; a divorce, on the other hand, is a legal finding ending the partnership. Results of a terminated domestic partnership are similar to traditional divorce settlements, including division of assets, child custody and support, and applicable alimony payments.
In Michigan domestic partnership and civil union relationships, partners may remain together for decades and acquire significant assets and earnings. However, such relationships do not enjoy the same laws that apply to married couples seeking divorce, such as spousal support or alimony. Experienced attorneys recommend filing a civil suit when needed to resolve property or financial disputes in order to reach an agreeable settlement. In addition, mediation in such cases is mandatory throughout the state to avoid the high cost of litigation, filing of motions, and court appearances. The ultimate goal is to ensure both parties are released from the relationship with equal economic and property footing which to move forward in life, rather than one partner reaping the majority of the partnership’s rewards, regardless if one person contributed more than the other.
While married couples generally partner with an attorney in divorce situations, domestic partnerships do not require a legal presence. However, many related laws are new and evolving and consulting with an expert on your specific rights is sound strategy.
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