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What Does Domestic Partner Mean

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” Barack Obama Supercut

Most define domestic partnership as HealthCare.gov does: two people who live together and share a domestic life.

These two people cant be related by blood, though. And they cant be married or joined by a civil union to each other or to anybody else.

Something to keep in mind here: the federal government doesnt define domestic partnerships. Thats left up to individual states, counties, and cities.

Because of that, how your state or city defines domestic partnership might be quite different from how another state or city defines it.

On The Health Exchange

If youre among the nine million Americans on the federal health exchange, youll likely be concerned about its views on domestic partners. When signing up for coverage, youll be asked who is in your household. Youre only supposed to include a domestic partner in this if you share a child together or if you plan to claim this person as a tax dependent.

Its important to note that this is set up to steer you toward the best plan for your situation, not to make things more difficult for you. To include someone in your family plan, theyll need to show that they are dependent on you financially. Otherwise, your domestic partner may be better off simply signing up for the exchange separately.

Health Insurance Benefits For Domestic Partners

Chris Kissell Les Masterson


  • Employers and health plans are more likely to recognize domestic partnerships now.

Just as marriage has evolved over the past few decades, so too has the health insurance industry. The health insurance landscape is trying to keep pace with society and therefore finds itself adjusting, including when it comes to health insurance benefits available for domestic partners.

More than half of American adults are married, according to the Pew Research Center. Still, the popularity of marriage has declined somewhat in recent decades. For example, in 1995, 58% of adults were married. By 2019, that number had fallen to 53%.

And while marriage has declined, the number of couples cohabitating has increased. Since 1995, the percentage of adults living with an unmarried partner has risen from 3% to 7%.

Something else that might contribute to the higher domestic partnership rate — employers are recognizing them more. You no longer have to get married to get health insurance for your partner, which was always a huge benefit in the past.

The health insurance marketplace offers domestic partnership health insurance benefits.

Key Takeaways

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What If Your Employer Doesn’t Offer Benefits For Domestic Partners

If your employer does not provide domestic partner benefits, you could see if your partner’s employer does. If neither job does, you can look for your own health insurance package from a private company.

Once you have alternate benefits, make sure they provide coverage equal to or better than the plans you and your partner can get through work. If they don’t, you may be better off having separate insurance plans.

If you decide to buy private insurance so you can be on the same plan, you have the option to ask for a waiver of health insurance benefits at your job. You can then try to negotiate alternate compensation from your employer to replace the health insurance they don’t have to pay for.

California Expands Eligibility For Domestic Partnership

Can You Put A Girlfriend On Your Health Insurance

August 29, 2019by Emerald LawinCompliance

On July 30, 2019, California passed SB 30 , which changes the requirements for domestic partnership under California law. The bill expands domestic partnership eligibility by eliminating the requirement that individuals be of the same sex or of the opposite sex and over the age of 62 in order to enter into a registered domestic partnership.

Since California law requires carriers to treat registered domestic partners the same as spouses, carriers will be required to provide coverage to newly eligible individuals who register as domestic partners. In addition, certain employers will be required to enroll newly registered domestic partners of their California employees onto their health plan.

Compliance Snapshot

How does SB30 change the requirements of a registered domestic partnership in California?

In general, individuals can become domestic partners if they meet the criteria under Section 297 of the Family Code and file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership or a Confidential Declaration of Partnership.

SB30 makes the following changes to the domestic partnership requirements:

How do the new requirements for domestic partnership affect health care benefits?

Are employers required to offer coverage to domestic partners if they offer coverage to spouses?

What are administrative considerations when enrolling a new domestic partner?

Documentation of Domestic Partnership

Enrollment of New Domestic Partners

Employer Next Steps:

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Domestic Partner Insurance Can Be Tax

Its possible for employer-paid insurance coverage to be tax-free in certain circumstances. On the federal level, an exception is made if the domestic partner meets these three qualifications. They must:

  • Receive 50% or more of their financial support from the employee
  • Live in the same home as the employee
  • And be a citizen, national or legal resident of the United States, Canada or Mexico

The government recommends that an employee include their unmarried domestic partner in a family plan only if they have a child together or if theyll claim the domestic partner as a tax dependent. If the domestic partner doesnt meet the three criteria, it may be cheaper for both to enroll in Marketplace plans.

Some Employers Are Actively Eliminating Domestic Partner Coverage

Since same-sex marriage became legal, a growing number of companies have eliminated their health insurance coverage for domestic partners. Their justification is that theres no need to continue offering the coverage now that same-sex partners can legally get hitched and become same-sex spouses.

Its important to note that companies are not required by federal law to provide domestic partner benefits even if they offer coverage to married couples, but some states and municipalities do mandate that businesses offer coverage to unmarried couples. In most cases, employees must prove domestic partnership to gain eligibility via registration with their local domestic partnership registry, an affidavit certifying the relationship, or other documentation.

Paycor is not a legal, tax, benefit, accounting or investment advisor. All communication from Paycor should be confirmed by your companys legal, tax, benefit, accounting or investment advisor before making any decisions.

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What Other Questions Do You Have About Companies That Offer Domestic Partnership Benefits

The devil is the details. Make sure to check with your insurance carriers to be clear on who is eligible for coverage and when. Being aware of these details and communicating them ensures employees can take advantage of the benefits you offer and get coverage they need for them and their loved ones.

What questions do you have about offering domestic partnership benefits? Any surprises or misconceptions you’ve come across? Let us know if the comments!

Domestic Partners Are Eligible For Qualifying Life Events

Can you keep your health care plan?

Those big moments in an employee’s life that impact benefits eligibility also apply to domestic partners. These events, which qualify an employee to change their benefit elections outside of the open enrollment timeframe, can include moments like:

  • Newly eligible domestic partner
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Death of a domestic partner
  • The employee’s domestic partner gaining or losing coverage at his/her job
  • The employee’s status changing from full-time to part-time status or vice versa

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Which States Recognize Domestic Partnerships

Not only is there not a federal definition of domestic partnership, there isnt always consistent recognition within a state. Some states recognize domestic partnerships and maintain registries. While in other states, domestic partnerships are only recognized in certain cities and counties. What defines a domestic partnership under local laws can also differ. For example, in California, a legally registered domestic partnership is available to:

  • All same-sex couples who are at least 18 years old.
  • As well as opposite-sex couples in which at least one partner is 62 years of age or older.
  • This directory from the Human Rights Campaign is a helpful place to start, though the only way to confirm whether your locality recognizes domestic partnerships is to contact the local government department that issues marriage licenses. Make sure to also ask about what that recognition means in terms of your legal rights.

    What If Your Employer Doesnt Offer Benefits For Domestic Partners

    If your employer does not provide domestic partner benefits, you could see if your partners employer does. If neither job does, you can look for your own health insurance package from a private company.

    Once you have alternate benefits, make sure they provide coverage equal to or better than the plans you and your partner can get through work. If they dont, you may be better off having separate insurance plans.

    If you decide to buy private insurance so you can be on the same plan, you have the option to ask for a waiver of health insurance benefits at your job. You can then try to negotiate alternate compensation from your employer to replace the health insurance they dont have to pay for.

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    Obtaining healthcare coverage can be extremely costly for those not covered under an employer-sponsored program.

    Even some employer programs are down right expensive these days, depending on the claims history and/or size of the company. Sometimes private insurance may be less expensive, but if your place of work offers coverage, you may be required to use what they offer or face a penalty.

    Typically, insurance premiums are higher in smaller companies or those unfortunate enough to have a bad claims history. However, for the most part, the insurance rate youre going to get from your employer is going to be the best bet in terms of whats offered on the market.

    Can You Add Your Boyfriend To Your Health Insurance

    Services You Can Expect from Non

    If youre wondering if you can add your boyfriend or girlfriend to your health insurance plan, the best advice is to speak to your provider however, if youre curious if adding your other half to your policy despite the fact that you arent married is a possibility, below, youll find some useful information about your options.

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    What If My Partner Is Member Of The Armed Services

    Signing up for these benefits might risk outing your partner to the armed services since there will be documentation of the relationship. However, your employer might provide you with some privacy guarantees. For free, confidential legal counseling on these issues, contact the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at 800/538-7418 or by e-mail at Read more about the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

    What Is A Domestic Partner

    A domestic partner is a term that refers to an unmarried partner regardless of gender.

    The definition of a domestic partnership is when two people live together and are involved in an interpersonal relationship sharing their domestic life as if married — however, theyre not married or joined by a civil union, says Tracy Burns, CEO of Northeast HR Association .

    “A domestic partnership is very similar to marriage. It can apply to couples who are not married but live together, Burns says. Domestic partnerships provide some legal benefits that married couples enjoy. In some states, domestic partnership is also known as a civil union.”

    If your employer offers health insurance coverage for domestic partners, you’ll likely need to sign an affidavit. Youll need to confirm that:

    • Youve lived together for at least six months.
    • Youre both 18 or older.
    • You share a close personal relationship and are responsible for each other’s common welfare.
    • Youre exclusive.
    • You arent married to anyone else.
    • You arent related by blood closer than would bar marriage in the state.
    • You share the same regular and permanent residence with the intent to continue doing so indefinitely.
    • Youre jointly financially responsible for “basic living expenses,” defined as the cost of basic food, shelter and any other expenses of a domestic partner because of the domestic partnership.
    • You were mentally competent to consent to the contract when the domestic partnership began.

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    If An Adult Child Is On A Parent’s Health Plan And Has A Baby Can The Baby Be Added To A Health Plan

    A handful of states mandate that grandchildren must be eligible dependents, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.

    But you’re more likely to find that the coverage won’t extend to the baby. Instead, the child’s parent will have to get a plan for the child. Some options include an individual, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program plan. Medicaid and CHIP are federal/state programs that cover low-income people, including children. Check with your state about eligibility.

    What Is Domestic Partner Health Insurance

    Can You Keep Your Doctors if You Switch Health Insurance Companies?

    Domestic partner health insurance is when health insurance benefits are extended to a domestic partner, much like they often are to married spouses. Generally, this benefit will also extend to the domestic partners children.

    Note that private employers do not have to offer health insurance to any employees. But if they do, they must follow federal, state, and local laws pertaining to whether domestic partners are eligible for health insurance benefits. In most cases, youll need to prove your domestic partnership to gain eligibility. This could be via registration in the local domestic partnership registry, an affidavit certifying your relationship, or other documentation. Insurance companies typically want you and your domestic partner to meet this criteria:

    • You have cohabited for 6-12 months and intend to continue doing so.
    • That neither of you is married or in a domestic partnership with anyone else.
    • That you are unrelated by blood.
    • And that you are financially interdependent.

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    Might My Domestic Partnership Affidavit Be Used In Future Court Proceedings

    In some jurisdictions, the law creates obligations such as providing financial support or dividing property for couples that separate. Whether a domestic partnership affidavit could be used in a suit for support or property division would depend on the jurisdiction you are in. Some states have Defense of Marriage Act laws that would most likely prevent the courts from recognizing any kind of relationship between you and your partner. Even in states without DOMA laws, alimony awards are increasingly rare however, if one partner was completely economic dependent on the other partner, it is possible that a domestic partnership affidavit might be used as some evidence that alimony would be appropriate. For information about DOMAs and other laws relating to GLBT issues in your jurisdiction, see what’s happening in your community. View State Laws.

    The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ community.


    Health Insurance Companies Hold The Cards

    To protect themselves from fraud, health insurance companies have specific guidelines regarding the benefits for domestic partnerships and unmarried couples.

    Conditions may require that the partner share the same address as the insured. To considered as a spouse, individuals cannot already be married and cannot be related to the policy holder.

    Whether or not your health insurance company will allow the addition of an unmarried spouse is difficult to say definitively.

    There are many factors that go into the final decision including the laws of the 50 states involved, the employer, the insurer and the policy itself.

    If your partner can be added to your policy, there may still be a waiting period that delays coverage for a certain number of months.

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    Domestic Partnership Tax And Exceptions

    If a companys health insurance plan permits employees unmarried partners to be covered and an employee is not married but in a committed relationship, the employer has to provide health insurance benefits on a post-tax basis.

    What this means for the employee carrying the coverage is that the fair market value of their partners insurance coverage is considered part of the employees income. If an employer pays for any part of a domestic partners health insurance, that employee benefit is taxable and must be reported on the employees W-2 as imputed income.

    How Do You Add A Domestic Partner To A Health Insurance Plan

    Barack Obama Quote: âIf you like your doctor or health ...

    Because this differs from employer to employer, and insurer to insurer, the only advice to give here is to ask someone in the know for specifics.

    If you get health insurance through an employer, ask someone in human resources if your plan covers domestic partners. And if it does, how can you add a domestic partner to your plan?

    If you get health coverage directly from an insurance company, ask your agent, broker, or a customer service representative those same questions.

    Assuming your employer or insurer allows it, adding a domestic partner to a health plan should be easy enough. The biggest hurdle you might have to overcome is proving your partnership.

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