We’re in love – why should we focus on breaking-up?

When we fall in love, the last thing we want to think about is what would happen if our relationship does not work out. But the reality is that marriages and domestic partnerships do not necessarily last for a lifetime. What better way to strengthen your relationship than by taking control of the process at the beginning of your relationship, instead of relying on an expensive and adversarial legal process at the end? In mediation, with full financial transparency and good faith discussions, guided by a caring and neutral professional, the written agreement you create which generally sets forth a non-adversarial process for future disputes, enables you to maintain the most control of the process, and encourages each party to enter the relationship with “eyes open”, with clarity and confidence, knowing what to expect. In some instances, especially if there is a disparity in income or assets between the parties, a collaborative approach, with each party having separate counsel, but all agreeing to discuss the terms of the agreement in a non-adversarial manner and with full transparency, is the better approach.

We believe that the best time to discuss potentially difficult or explosive issues in a loving manner is when the love is steadfast and secure. As a Mediator and Collaborative Attorney, Carol L. Buell raises the difficult questions in a caring and supportive manner, with just a hint of humor, to move the parties towards positive results and create a mutual or shared understanding that is fair to both parties.

In the same way that Wills outline your wishes, we believe that every couple should understand and formalize their mutual understandings pertaining to assets and property. If you don’t, you are allowing the State of New York to make those decisions for you, based upon New York’s contract law, equitable distribution laws, domestic relations law, as the court see fit.

Unmarried partnership and prenuptial agreements formalize these understandings ahead of time.

For any couple coming to marriage later in life, or for LGBTQ couples who have been together for many years, but have only recently been able to marry, the issues can be even more difficult to parse, because there is more at stake and the clarity around who owns what may be gone if assets have been co-mingled for some time.

The unmarried “domestic” partnership agreement and the law

It is a common misconception that a domestic partnership agreement by itself will establish a couple as domestic partners under the law. Unlike marriage, which is a legal status, the formation of an unmarried “domestic” partnership is entirely the product of the couple’s own conduct. While it is possible to register as domestic partners in the City of New York and many other municipalities and counties within New York State, that is not the sole determinant of whether a couple are domestic partners, as opposed to merely roommates or friends or some other form of interpersonal relationship.

Some of the other important ways that couples can establish that they are domestic partners include naming each other as beneficiaries and or executors in their wills, making a home together, naming each other as domestic partners with respect to employment benefits, designating each other as primary agents in Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, Nominations of Guardian, and by entering into a “domestic” partnership agreement that spells out the couple’s expectations and obligations regarding property ownership, contributions toward expenses, shared investments, division of property in the event of separation, and other issues of importance to the couple themselves.

Where available, domestic partner registration is a valuable method of demonstrating the existence of the partnership for such purposes as:

The right to stay in a “rent controlled” residence after the legal lease holder (domestic partner) dies.
The ability to visit his/her partner in jail or the hospital.
The right of a city employee to obtain health insurance for his/her partner.
The right to receive Family Medical Leave Act benefits.

For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact Carol L. Buell Law & Mediation, PLLC by phone at 212-967-5710 or by using our contact form.