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From Domestic Partnership To Marriage: What Changes

Since the landmark Obergefell decision granting marriage equality to same-sex couples, many same-sex couples have chosen to marry, though some have chosen to stay in an unmarried domestic partnership.  If you and your partner are interested in getting married, there are certain things about your legal relationship that will change.

Florida’s Law

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Florida since January 2015, but between challenges at the local level, and the disinclination of many couples to marry while still not legal nationwide, the number of same-sex marriages in the state did not begin to rise significantly until after the Obergefell decision.  More recently, the number of same-sex marriages has begun to increase as acceptance is becoming universal. Equality Florida estimated that the state’s marriage rate rose approximately 10 percent between 2015 and 2016, with as many as 1,400 couples getting married in the weeks immediately following legalization in 2015. However, the number of domestic partnerships has correspondingly dropped.

As of this writing, the Florida domestic partner registry is still in operation, and no plans have been made to close any of them.  Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples have the right, under Florida law, to choose domestic partnership instead of marriage, despite the fact that it does not confer many rights that marriage does.  Many couples prefer the flexibility of a domestic partnership, and should still take appropriate legal steps to ensure their rights are protected (by executing a domestic partnership agreement or other type of contract).

Rights Gained

There are strong reasons many couples choose to marry.  There are approximately 1,100 rights that married couples possess that domestic partners do not, including the right to make medical decisions for each other (without a power of lawyer), the right to collect Social Security benefits, potential immigration benefits and a host of others.  Converting a domestic partnership to a marriage will grant you and your spouse the rights to all these benefits, but at the same time, it is money well spent to discuss this change with a legal professional.  This is primarily because, unlike many other states, Florida has no mechanism to automatically change same-sex domestic partnership to marriage if so desired.  Without automatic conversion, a Florida couple must establish ownership of various assets and modify documents appropriately.

It is also important to note that, unfortunately, rare problems do exist for same-sex couples seeking to be married in Florida.  If you same-sex marriage is not honored by anyone, you should consult with a lawyer as this is discrimination.

Call An Experienced Lawyer

Domestic partnership may be right for you and your partner, or you may decide to get married. Either way, a good lawyer to advise you will make a difference. The Orlando family law firm of Goodblatt · Leo is proud to serve all couples, and we will do our very best to help you make sure you and your loved ones are legally protected. Call us at 407-228-7007 to make an appointment today.   Information is available on our website at agoodblatt.com.

GOODBLATT · LEO is located and serves clients in and around Orlando, FL.

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