Am I legally entitled to financial support from my domestic partner after a 12 year relationship?
Generally, unmarried cohabitants do not enjoy the same rights as married individuals, particularly with respect to property acquired during a relationship. Marital property laws and other family laws related to marriage do not apply to unmarried couples, even in long-term
relationships. The characterization of property acquired by unmarried cohabitants is less clear than that of married couples whose ownership of property is governed by marital and community property laws. Some property acquired by unmarried couples may be owned jointly, but it may be difficult to divide such property when the relationship ends.
Cohabitation alone does not create any type of support obligation between the parties, but such obligation may come from cohabitation agreements. Written cohabitation agreements usually involve financial and property arrangements. Parties can provide arrangements analogous to community or marital property laws or can provide other arrangements
that are more favorable to the couple. States will generally recognize contracts between parties who cohabitate if the contract is not based on sexual services.
Some states, municipalities, and private employers extend benefits to registered "domestic partners." Cities in North Carolina that extend benefits to domestic partners and/or provide a domestic partner registry include Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The greatest benefit in registering as
domestic partners is that each partner enjoys insurance coverage, family leave, and retirement benefits similar to married couples, though these rights are considerably more restricted than rights afforded to married couples. These rights are not generally recognized outside the
jurisdiction that permits registration of domestic partners.