Written by CHUMA
After being with my partner for over two years now, and going over everything we’ve invested in together, I realized that we needed to indemnify our relationship and protect our rights in the event of death or legal action. So I purchased a book entitled, A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples by Attorneys Hayden Curry, Dennis Clifford and Frederick Hertz. I found it to be user friend and legal jargon free, and it also included a CD-ROM that helps create living-together contracts, durable powers of attorney and more. Some of the topics covered were 1. Creating Family: Marriage, Domestic Partnership; 2. Money, Insurance, Name Changes, and Immigration Issues; 3. Renting a Home Together; 4. Adopting a Child; 5. Medical and Financial Matters: Delegating Authority; 6. Looking Ahead; Estate Planning; 7. Living Together Contracts; 8. Buying a Home Together (and Other Real Estate Ventures); 9. Going Separate Ways: Issues at the End of a Relationship; and 10. Hiring a Lawyer and Legal Organizations.
WHY SAME-SEX COUPLES NEED THIS BOOK
The people at Nolo (the legal companion organization that created this book) believe that everyone should know their legal rights and be active participants in structuring their legal affairs. This is particularly important for same-sex couples, because of the current state of marriage and family laws in this county. Because people in same-sex relationships aren’t treated as family units under the laws of most states, the legal benefits and responsibilities of being family members don’t automatically apply. So, if you want to take on any of these rights and responsibilities, in most cases you’ll have to do a legal work around—this is, you’ll have to use other laws (that weren’t necessarily designed to apply to relationships) to get the job done.
Married couples’ relationships are closely regulated by each state’s family law rules, which give spouses certain rights, determine how property will be divided and custody issues worked out if the couple splits up, and dictate who will be responsible for the couples’ debts, among many other things. This isn’t so for same sex-couples, however. Lesbian and gay couples can’t legally marry in any state except Massachusetts, and the implications of same-sex marriage there have yet to be tested. Except in California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, or Vermont, all of which grant certain rights to same-sex couples who register with the state, LGBT relationships are governed by the rules of contract law—the same rules that apply when you hire someone to repair your car or paint your home.
Same-sex couples suffer plenty of negative consequences because they cannot marry, including higher estate tax and property tax bills, higher insurance payments, difficulties in making end-of-life health care decisions for one’s partner, and significant obstacles in adopting children. But they also have the freedom to create their own legal relationships without the limitations that state marriage laws impose. And even in the states in which marriage or marriage-like relationships are possible, it may work better for some couples to structure their relationship out of those legal rules.
That’s where this book comes in—it provides all of the information and forms you need to make your own agreements about property, family issues, and more. Making these decisions and using the written agreements in this book will help you think about the responsibilities you want to accept—and the commitments you want to make—toward each other.
Note: Information for those who are transgender. Transgender people often find themselves in particularly complex legal situations. Oftentimes their birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and other identification documents create confusion and uncertainty. Their legal rights and duties with respect to their unmarried partners, however, are the same as anyone else’s. Special issues involving transgender individuals are discussed throughout the book where they are relevant.