Domestic Partner Agreements / Separation
Domestic Partnership Agreements: Although Michigan does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions, couples who commit to each other and choose to live together are able to protect their rights with a Domestic Partnership Agreement (DPA). A DPA is a contract that protects the rights and sets forth the responsibilities of the parties in the event of a later separation. Even if a couple intended that each party would own 50% of whatever property they acquired during their relationship, regardless of who paid for it, the Court may not be able to enforce that intention without a valid DPA.
Separation: If Domestic Partners separate and have an appropriate DPA, then the DPA should determine how the couple’s property will be distributed, and whether either party is responsible for providing support to the other. In the event there is no DPA, then the Court must determine whether the parties entered into an enforceable oral contract regarding property, or weather the Court has authority to determine property issues based upon equitable principles such as Detrimental Reliance or Unjust Enrichment.
Custody: Although Michigan does not permit adoption of children by same-sex couples, the Court has jurisdiction over custody disputes of valid adoptions by same-sex couples. For example, some years a ago, there were a few judges in Michigan who granted adoption by same-sex couples. Unless that adoption was timely overturned by a Court, the Michigan Court is required to determine and enforce issues of custody, parenting time, and child support. For another example, if a same-sex couple validly adopted a child in another state, moved to Michigan, and have separated, then the Michigan Court is required to determine the issues of custody, parenting time, and child support. Unfortunately, in cases where one of the parties is the adopted or biological parent, and the other party is not, then the other party may not have any rights that are protected or enforceable by the Michigan Courts.
It is essential that Domestic Partners, who commit to each other, intend to reside with each other, or have or intend to have children, seek the advice of a competent and experienced attorney in order to understand and protect their rights.