Domestic partnership in Wisconsin: does it still exist?
In 2015, the United States Supreme Court made history when it issued its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling that same-sex couples are guaranteed the fundamental right to marry by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In 2009, long before Obergefell v. Hodges, Wisconsin lawmakers passed legislation that created the Wisconsin Domestic Partnership Registry. At that time, the registry provided same-sex couples with rights and protections under the law that they would not have otherwise been afforded. Now that the right to same-sex marriage is the law of the land, does domestic partnership in Wisconsin still exist?
Domestic Partnerships Today
Effective April 1, 2018, the state stopped accepting applications for domestic partnerships. However, those Wisconsin citizens who are registered as domestic partners continue to have the rights conferred by this status. These rights include things such as being able to take Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a sick or terminally ill partner, having presumed joint tenancy as co-habituating partners, being able to get health insurance for their partner, being able to inherit from their partner without a will, and having access to their partner in the hospital or while incarcerated.
Ending a Domestic Partnership
It’s relatively simple to end a domestic partnership in Wisconsin, but some individuals may not feel the need to do so. In some instances, remaining in this status may be preferable to marriage while still allowing the couple to enjoy limited personal, health, financial, and property rights.
Domestic partners do not have to go through a divorce to end their arrangement, but they are required to follow some legal steps to remove the designation officially. The partnership ends when one partner pays a fee and files a notarized “notice of termination of domestic partnership" form with the county clerk who issued his or her "declaration of domestic partnership." However, if only one partner signs, the filing party will have to file an affidavit with the county clerk, which states that the party who did not sign had proper notice. Under certain circumstances, the party seeking to end the partnership may be able to notice the other by publication.
Once the notice of termination of domestic partnership is signed, the county clerk then gives the filing partner a document called a certificate of termination of domestic partnership. The partner then must submit the record of termination of domestic partnership to the register of deeds of the county where the domestic partnership was first recorded. Ninety days later, the termination becomes final.
Although there are no new domestic partnerships permitted in Wisconsin today, those who registered, continue to maintain their status and rights.
Karyn Youso is an experienced family law attorney who has experience advising clients regarding domestic partnership and marriage issues. Come in and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances and get the information you need to make informed decisions. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.