On June 29, 2009, Wisconsin Act 28 was enacted and, among other things, it created a new legal status in Wisconsin—registered domestic partners. Under this new law, couples of the same sex may apply for a Declaration of Domestic Partnership, which entitles them to certain legal protections.
Domestic partnership entitles domestic partners to some but not all of the legal protections that the law affords to spouses. It does not include many of the core provisions of the legal relationship of marriage, including the intricate property system that applies to married couples under the marital property law, the support obligation that spouses have during a marriage, or the provisions for division of property and spousal support relating to divorce. A domestic partnership does not have any effect on a partner's legal relationship to the children of the other party. A domestic partnership does not afford any rights or privileges in the area of taxation. For example, domestic partners cannot file joint income tax returns, whereas married couples can.
Some of the legal protections that the law does provide domestic partners include:
- A surviving domestic partner will generally inherit from the deceased domestic partner's estate as a spouse would.
- Real estate that is titled in the names of both domestic partners is presumed to be held in joint tenancy.
- Transfers of real estate between domestic partners are exempt from the real estate transfer fee.
- A domestic partner may also have certain medical, hospital and visitation rights.
- The Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act now also covers an employee in a domestic partnership.
A domestic partner may terminate the domestic partnership, in which case the termination will automatically revoke the appointment of a partner as agent under a health care power of attorney, the appointment of a partner as agent under a durable power of attorney and the provisions in a will in favor of a former domestic partner.