Real Estate Laws on Joint Ownership Titles & Civil Unions in Virginia
Virginia and Civil Unions
- In 1997 Virginia was one of the first states to ban same-sex marriage, and the state has continued to pass laws that prescribe the rights of same-sex partners and prevent any form of relationship other than marriage between one man and one woman. Civil unions are explicitly banned by a state constitutional amendment, which voters passed in 2006.
- The 2004 MAA states that Virginia will not recognize any relationship other than marriage between one man and one woman and that any contract created by another form of relationship is null and void in Virginia (for example, a domestic partner from California would not have any legal guardianship of nonbiological children while traveling through Virginia). Initially, lawyers and some organizations protested the law on the grounds that unmarried heterosexual couples would have no protections, but Virginia allows some joint property rights through common law.
- Two people can put real estate under both names and own it jointly, regardless of the legal status of their interpersonal relationship. However, only one man and one woman legally married to each other can transfer property without paying taxes on it. Two people in a civil union must essentially act as business partners when establishing joint ownership and may incur a tax penalty.
- Family law attorney Patricia Tichenor practices in Virginia and notes that couples can create a dossier of legal documents that define the boundaries and responsibilities of their relationship, including real estate ownership and the rights of each person with regards to the property. Such documents are recognized as legally binding contracts between two individuals and are not connected to civil unions. Therefore, the state recognizes the documents' legitimacy. Couples considering real estate in Virginia should consult with an experienced attorney.