Domestic partnerships in Texas exist to provide certain unmarried couples with a form of legally recognized status similar to marriage or civil unions. A domestic partnership agreement allows unmarried couples in a long-term relationship and, in certain jurisdictions, same-sex couples, to receive some of the legal benefits of marriage. However, Texas state law does not recognize domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, and the availability and scope of same-sex domestic partnerships are not uniform across all jurisdictions statewide.
In general, where available, the benefits of a domestic partnership agreement for unmarried couples can theoretically include access to health insurance coverage, employee benefits and hospital visitation rights, among others. While Travis County is currently the only jurisdiction in Texas that extends full benefits to domestic partners, several other municipal and county governments have taken steps in recent years to extend coverage and protection to couples with domestic partnership arrangements.
In addition, a domestic partnership agreement between unmarried partners as private individuals can help resolve other legal concerns, such as dividing property, custody issues, adoption, paternity rights and inheritance. These agreements resemble cohabitation agreements, which are recognized under state law, and provide a formal contract with legally enforceable provisions regarding the couple’s assets, income, rights and obligations in the event certain scenarios should occur.
Thus, while current Texas law continues to present numerous legal challenges for unmarried or LGBT couples to establish a valid domestic partnership in most cases, alternative options do exist. In certain situations, an attorney may be able to assist clients in finding a suitable arrangement based on their needs, circumstances and jurisdiction that provides some of the protections and benefits of a typical domestic partnership agreement.
Source: Findlaw, “What is a Domestic Partnership?“, December 17, 2014