Fort Lauderdale Domestic Partnership Lawyer
Assisting you with domestic partnership agreements in Florida
Florida does not provide for statewide domestic partnerships or civil unions. Instead, cities or counties can create their own registries with their own domestic partnership requirements and benefits. At Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, we understand that the local nature of domestic partnerships in Florida makes this a particularly complex and confusing area of law. We help you understand the particular benefits and drawbacks of domestic partnership in Florida. Contact our Fort Lauderdale domestic partnership lawyer today.
What are the requirements to establish a domestic partnership for cohabitants in Fort Lauderdale?
Since domestic partnership is determined on a city-by-city or county basis, no statewide domestic partnership requirements exist. Broward County has set the following requirements to enter into a cohabitation agreement:
- Both partners must be at least 18 years old and competent to form contracts.
- Neither partner is married or already in a domestic partnership.
- The partners have an agreement of mutual responsibility.
- Both partners are in the relationship of their own free will.
- Both partners live in Broward County or one partner works for Broward County.
Domestic partnerships in Florida are gender neutral and can be formed by both heterosexual and same-sex partners. If you and your partner satisfy these requirements, then the appropriate paperwork must be completed, notarized and then properly filed with the Broward County Records Department.
What are the particular benefits or drawbacks to forming a domestic partnership?
By registering as a Broward County domestic partnership, you and your partner gain the following benefits:
- The right to hospital or hospice visitation
- The right to make healthcare decisions for your incapacitated partner
- The right to the status of your partner’s condition as the guardian if your partner is incapacitated
- The right to visit your partner in Broward County jail.
In addition to these rights, if you are a Broward County employee, your registered domestic partner receives the same employment benefits that a spouse would receive. And, if you are an employer who is awarded a Broward County contract that is worth more than $100,000, your domestic partner is treated in the same way as a spouse.
While a domestic partnership offers numerous advantages in Broward County, a domestic partnership does not have force of law throughout the state of Florida or throughout the United States. Therefore, a domestic partnership should be only the first step you take. A domestic partnership does not protect you if you move out of Broward County or in state law proceedings, such as if your partner dies without a will. You should develop and establish a thorough estate plan with a Fort Lauderdale family lawyer, including irrevocable trusts, to approximate the benefits a marriage would grant.
Ending a Domestic Partnership
Just as entering into a domestic partnership requires fewer steps than getting married, dissolving a domestic partnership in Florida always requires much less than getting divorced. In fact, Broward County requires that you fill out and submit a form called the Declaration of Termination of Domestic Partnership. This form is only one page and simply states that your domestic partnership has ended. While this simple method of ending a domestic partnership may seem convenient, former partners may be left with significant legal issues following a dissolution.
Domestic partners often have the same issues when their relationship ends as married people. For example, if domestic partners have a child together and no longer live together, they will have to determine custody and visitation arrangements, parenting plans, and child support. In addition, many domestic partners purchase a home or vehicles together during the relationship, as well as acquire furniture and other personal property. If the partnership ends, they will have to decide how to divide the all of this property between them. If domestic partners have shared debts–as many couples do–they must decide who will be responsible for which debts, including mortgages, student loans, credit cards, medical bills for any children, and much more. Finally, in certain situations, one partner may believe they are entitled to support or maintenance from the other in order to get back on their feet following the termination of the partnership. All of these issues can be extremely complicated to settle and you should always seek assistance from an experienced domestic partnership lawyer if you are considering termination.
A Thorough Domestic Partnership Agreement can Protect your Rights
One important way to help reduce the complexity of ending a domestic partnership is to think ahead and address the above issues in a domestic partnership agreement when you first enter into the partnership. This type of agreement is similar to prenuptial agreements entered into by couples before they get married in case they get divorced. While planning for the possible termination of your domestic partnership right as you enter into it may not seem like the most romantic gesture, it should not be viewed as an expectation that the partnership will end. Instead, think of this agreement as a protection of both of your legal rights in case the relationship does sour down the road.
A domestic partnership agreement can address many different matters, including the following:
- How you will divide property and debts upon termination;
- Whether or not one partner will be entitled to financial support and the length such support will last;
- How you will share child custody, visitation, and parenting rights.
When it comes to matters involving children, the family court may intervene and not uphold a custody agreement if the judge believes the arrangement is not in the best interest of the child. In addition, child support will likely be determined according to the guidelines in Florida law and you have the right to challenge a child support order that you believe is unfair or inadequate.
Call today for your free consultation from our Fort Lauderdale cohabitation agreement lawyer
Since protections offered by a domestic partnership are not absolute, working with an experienced Fort Lauderdale domestic partnership attorney is essential. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC is close to Broward Hospital, north of Davie Boulevard, and just three blocks from the county courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Call us today at 954.817.0402 or contact us online. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. For your convenience, we offer appointments on Saturdays upon request.