The Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) became effective July 14, 2004, and recognizes individuals "who share an important personal, emotional, and committed relationship with another adult." The DPA provides limited rights and legal protections to those in gay and lesbian relationships and unmarried heterosexual cohabitants age 62 and older.
In order for two individuals to become "domestic partners", they must execute and file an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership, meeting all of the following requirements (N.J.S.A. 26:8A-4):
• A common residence and are otherwise jointly responsible for each other's common welfare by financial arrangement or joint ownership of real or personal property, which shall be demonstrated by: joint deed, mortgage agreement or lease, joint bank account, joint ownership of car, or designation of one person as the primary beneficiary of the other's will, life insurance policy or retirement plan;
• joint responsibility of each other's basic living expenses during the domestic partnership;
• neither party is married as recognized by New Jersey law or a member of another domestic partnership;
• neither party is a blood relative of the other;
• both parties are of the same sex and are unable to enter into marriage recognized under New Jersey law, except that two people who are 62 years old or older and not of the same sex may establish a domestic partnership if they meet the requirements set forth in this section;
• both parties have chosen to share each other's lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring;
• both parties are at least 18 years old;
• both parties file a joint Affidavit of Domestic Partnership; and
• neither party has been a partner in a domestic partnership that has terminated less than 180 days before the filing of the current Affidavit for Domestic Partnership, except in cases where one partner died; and, in all cases in which a person is registered under a prior domestic partnership, the domestic partnership shall have been terminated in accordance with N.J.S.A 26:8A-10.
In the implementation of the Domestic Partnership Act, the NJ legislature has taken the position that domestic partners should be entitled to certain rights and benefits that are accorded to married couples, including statutory protection against various forms of discrimination, visitation rights for a hospitalized partner, decision- making rights in a health care setting for an incapacitated partner, the right to file for a state income tax deduction for a partner as a dependent and a state inheritance tax exemption. N.J.S.A.26:8A-2.
Recent court decisions have expanded the rights of same-sex couples and domestic partners. For instance, in Hennefeld v. Montclair, 22 N.J. Tax 166 (Tax 2005), an honorably discharged disabled veteran and his same sex partner, who registered as domestic partners under the DPA, were eligible for the disabled veteran's tax exemption for property they owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship.
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