Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in North Carolina – What’s the Difference?

Every state has different legislation in place regarding marriages and domestic partnerships. While some states recognize domestic partnerships and provide them with rights similar to marriages, other states do not legally recognize domestic partnerships at all. Because of this, it is important to know how the state you live in treats these kinds of relationships legally

How Is Marriage Defined in North Carolina?

Marriage is the legal union of two adults, regardless of gender, in a committed relationship. While there used to be legislation stating that marriage could only occur between one man and one woman, same-sex marriage has now been legal across the United States since 2015. Because of this, there is not a specific federal or state definition of marriage. It is more commonly known as the legal process of uniting two people who love each other.

Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in North Carolina - What's the Difference?

What Is a Domestic Partnership?

A domestic partnership, often called a “civil union,” is a legal option for couples who know they want to share their lives together long-term. However, obtaining a civil union is different from getting married. Before same-sex marriage was federally legalized, domestic partnerships were most commonly used by same-sex couples to form a legal union. However, these partnerships can occur between any two adults in a relationship, regardless of their gender. In states that recognize them, domestic partnerships offer some similar rights and benefits to marriage. This is why many couples who do not want to get married choose to become domestic partners instead.

What Is the Difference Between a Domestic Partnership and a Marriage in North Carolina?

The biggest difference between marriages and domestic partnerships in North Carolina is that the state does not legally recognize domestic partnerships. This means that you cannot file for or become domestic partners in North Carolina. The state also does not recognize domestic partnerships that were formed out-of-state. Instead, if two adults in a relationship want to make it legally official, their only option is to get married in North Carolina.

What Are the Requirements for Getting Married in North Carolina?

To get legally married in the state of North Carolina, the inquiring couple must meet the following requirements:

  • Both partners are adults over the age of 18.
  • Both partners willingly consent to getting married and understand their actions.
  • The partners obtain a valid marriage license in the state of North Carolina.
  • The marriage is performed by an ordained individual and is witnessed by at least two different people.

What Rights Does a Couple Receive Once They Are Married?

One of the biggest reasons many couples choose to get married is to solidify their relationship and start legally sharing their lives together. By getting married, the state legally recognizes you and your spouse as a union. As a result, the law offers you different rights and benefits. Some of the benefits that are given to couples once they are married include:

  • The ability to file taxes jointly
  • Marital tax deductions
  • Social security benefits
  • Estate planning benefits
  • Medical benefits, such as being able to make decisions for an incapacitated spouse
  • The ability to adopt or foster children
  • The ability to split marital property if the couple divorces
  • Employment benefits, such as taking family leave

FAQs About Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage in North Carolina

What Is Common Law Marriage, and Does North Carolina Recognize It?

Common law marriage is an older form of marriage that legally recognizes a couple as married after a certain period of time, even if they did not have an official ceremony. Because it is an old form of civil union, only some states still recognize common law marriages. North Carolina, however, does not.

Do Unmarried Couples Have Rights in North Carolina?

In most states, the only way that an unmarried couple can acquire particular rights and benefits is through a domestic partnership or a common law marriage. Because the state of North Carolina does not legally recognize either of those, couples that are not legally married will not have any additional rights by virtue of being together.

Does North Carolina Recognize Common Law Marriages From Other States?

Only 9 states still allow and recognize common-law marriages. However, couples sometimes move from a state where they were married by common law to one that does not legally offer it. Fortunately, that state is still required to recognize your out-of-state common law marriage as valid. This means that if you had a common law marriage in a valid state, such as Utah, then moved to North Carolina, the state would have to recognize your marriage.

Can You Get Married Under the Age of 18 in North Carolina?

It is possible for a minor, at the age of 16 or 17, to get married in North Carolina. However, they must have parental consent or consent from their legal guardian. Otherwise, in most cases, both parties are required to be 18 or older to file for a marriage license and be formally united.

Can You Get Married Without a License?

You cannot legally get married in North Carolina if you do not obtain a valid marriage license first. Your license is what makes your marriage official. It is also used by the ordained individual performing the marriage. It is important to note that once you obtain a marriage license, it is only valid for 60 days before it expires. After that, you will need to get a new one.

North Carolina Family Law Experts and Marriage Assistance

At The Law Offices of Aimee E. Cain, we have spent years helping a multitude of clients through their unique family law matters. With over two decades of experience working with the law, we have dedicated our practice to assisting families and individuals across North Carolina. Whether you are looking to get married, you are having issues with a current marriage, or you need legal help on family law matters, our team is always prepared to listen. For more information on our different legal services or to schedule a consultation with one of our members, reach out to The Law Offices of Aimee E. Cain today.

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