Even though New Jersey recognizes domestic partnerships, you can still face financial difficulties when you and your partner decide to split up after a long relationship. Domestic partnership rules originally applied to same-sex couples but now apply equally to heterosexual couples. Here is where you may encounter difficulties.
Little or no financial protection
Even if you have been together 20 years, individuals in domestic partnerships have fewer rights than married individuals who decide to divorce. One of the murkiest areas involves access to retirement benefits. Spouses have automatic access to IRAs and other types of retirement accounts. Unless your domestic partner has specified you as a beneficiary, you may not be entitled to any of those funds after you split up. Similarly, in the event of an imposing split, your soon-to-be-ex may even remove your name as beneficiary, leaving you high and dry.
Other areas where you may have difficulty securing your finances are death, pension or survivor benefits. Not all companies recognize domestic partners for these benefits, so even if your partner still wants to leave an amount to you after your split, that arrangement may not be possible. Rules can also vary from city to city.
Navigating your rights in a domestic split
Because New Jersey recognizes domestic partnerships, you’re not completely without rights. If you were the stay-at-home partner for many years, you may be entitled to spousal support to maintain your quality of life.
Partners who have accumulated joint property such as a home or a vehicle during their time together will also need to determine the division of such assets. The division of these assets may follow a more traditional format, but you may still end up in mediation or court to get what is yours.