Civil Unions/Domestic Partnerships

The New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) was enacted on January 8, 2004, making New Jersey only the fifth state in the United States to recognize same sex domestic partnerships. The DPA conferred to same-sex couples all the same rights and obligations accorded to married couples. The two distinctions are: (1) property acquired by one partner during the domestic partnership is treated as property of that individual, unlike in a marriage where joint ownership may arise by law; and (2) the status of a partnership does not create or reduce individual partners’ rights and responsibilities toward children.

Following the landmark case of Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (2006), the New Jersey Legislature established civil unions by amending the marriage statute to include same sex couples. Therefore, all rights and obligations created by the “Domestic Partnership Act” were expanded by the recognition of civil unions between same sex couples. Parties to a civil union receive the same benefits and protections as married couples. The dissolution of civil unions between same sex couples follows an identical track to the dissolution of marriage between a man and a woman, including the grounds to initiate dissolution proceedings.