What should our domestic partnership agreement include?

Although same-sex domestic partners are denied the right to legally marry in Michigan, you can turn this to your advantage by making it an opportunity to create documents tailor-made to your situation. The same is true for opposite sex domestic partners who, for whatever reason, choose not to marry.

The most important part of such a package is the domestic partnership agreement. You create the structure you want, and are not restricted by the enormous body of law that encompasses marriage. There are certain general areas of concern for most couples, including: how property and assets are owned, and whether or not income and expenses are shared.

Some couples prefer to keep the property each owned before the relationship completely separate - like their car, house, furniture and the like. Other couples choose to specify that some or all of their property is shared, and transfer part ownership to each other. You can also specify how you will own property acquired during your relationship, or choose instead to provide only for certain major items of property with separate "joint purchase agreements."

Likewise, you can use your domestic partnership agreement to split income and expenses in any number of ways. You can keep separate bank and checking accounts, credit cards and insurance, or you can agree to handle some or all of these things jointly.

In your domestic partnership agreement, you may also want to decide in advance who gets what should you separate, or agree to a process (such as arbitration) for resolving any property disputes that arise in that event. You may never need to rely upon this part of your agreement, but if you do it will certainly save you money and grief.