A recent article in the New York Times highlighted a new trend in the area of love and marriage – domestic partnerships. Although the idea of domestic partnerships is nothing new, especially in the LGBTQ community pre-marriage equality, a movement toward platonic marriage is yet another way we can look at how we define “family.”
Historically, marriage has been a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. However, today, loving families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including platonic and domestic partnerships.
Nick Bognar, a California marriage and family therapist, tells the New York Times (NYT), “It should be acknowledged that we’ve really normalized heterosexual monogamous romantic relationships to the point of stigmatizing other kinds of relationships. All of this is to say, I think this probably happens a lot, but people don’t talk about it much because their relationships are invalidated by others when they’re seen as not being part of the norm.”
Whether you are looking for a platonic marriage or domestic partnership, it’s important you understand the pros and cons of each. The first thing you both should know is that both of these are legal contracts, and regardless of the type of relationship, ensure you are committed and going in for the right reasons.
The NYT notes that “couples in this type of arrangement often find compatibility and understand each other well, while also agreeing to the guidelines without being blinded by romantic feeling. Many of these relationships…begin because the couple wants their family life separate from their romantic lives, as they don’t find their romantic lives to be stable.”
What is a domestic partnership in Maryland?
Domestic partnerships are an alternative to marriage and are available to any couple, regardless of gender, who:
- Are 18 years of age or older
- Are not related by blood or marriage
- Are not already married or in a domestic partnership with another
- Agree to be in a relationship of mutual interdependence, where both contribute to the maintenance and support of each other and the relationship
To be eligible to become domestic partners, couples must show two pieces of documentation as evidence of their relationship. These documents can include:
- Joint liability for a lease, mortgage or loan
- Joint checking account
- Life insurance policy where one partner is the beneficiary
- Relationship or cohabitation contract
- Durable power of attorney for health care or financial management granted by one or both partners
- Coverage on a health insurance policy
Kema Barton and Dene Brown of Ohio talked to the NYT about their platonic relationship and long-term commitment to each other. “We’re committed to investing in one another so we can both be successful, and ultimately, we love each other so much. In every way that you’d look at a husband or a marriage in terms of interpersonal connections and intimacy, it’s there.” They decided to make their relationship official so they could determine major life decisions as a unit, with all the legal rights that provides.
What are my rights in a domestic partnership?
A domestic partnership provides a variety of rights and benefits. These include important life events like:
- Visiting partner in the hospital
- Sharing a room in a nursing home or care facility
- Making medical decisions on behalf of your partner
- Making funeral or burial plans for your partner
- Raising children together
- Filing taxes together
However, these rights may be limited in comparison to marriage, and your domestic partnership may not be recognized in states other than Maryland. This is why it’s important to consult with an experienced family law attorney to see if a domestic partnership is the right choice for you.
What about a platonic marriage?
As the NYT explains, a platonic marriage is another choice for some couples. Psychotherapist Kimberly Perlin posits the question, “If both partners have clear understandings of what is expected, flexibility and communication skills to address conflicts that come up, do not wish to marry a romantic partner and are fine with going against the norms, then who are any of us to say it won’t work?”
The American Marriage Ministries even talks about platonic marriage in one of its officiating blogs, describing it as a relationship people choose for “emotional and financial security and benefits, companionship and enjoyment, and to start or support a family.” Platonic marriage is 100 percent legal, as long as you’re both two consenting adults with an authentic commitment.
If you and your partner are trying to determine what type of long-term commitment is right for you, the Rockville family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. can help. We can sit down with you to discuss your long-term goals and design the best strategy for you and your loved ones. Find out how we can help by scheduling a consultation today. Call 443-917-3347 or reach out to us through our contact form today. In addition to Rockville, we maintain offices in Bethesda, Fulton, and Columbia.