Domestic Partner Benefits

The University of Wisconsin System is pleased to offer insurance coverage to employees in same-sex or opposite sex domestic partnerships. There are also leave benefits that allow you to take time off to care for a seriously ill domestic partner, their child, or their parent.

If you want to cover your domestic partner and partner’s children under your benefits, you must create a domestic partnership for benefit purposes.  If you have a same-sex spouse, you are still required to create a domestic partnership for benefit purposes* because Wisconsin law does not currently recognize same-sex marriage.  Your partnership must meet the following requirements:

  • You must both be at least 18 years old and competent to enter into a contract; and
  • Neither of you may be married to, or in a domestic partnership with another person; and
  • Your partnership must not violate Wis. Stats. §765.03, which bars marriage between certain persons based on kinship and divorce; and
  • You must consider yourselves to be members of each other’s immediate family; and
  • You must agree to be responsible for each other’s basic living expenses; and
  • You must share a common residence - any of the following conditions may apply:
    • Only one of you has legal ownership of the residence (if ownership is applicable); or
    • One or both of you have additional residences not shared with the other partner; or
    • One of you leaves the common residence with the intent to return.

Click on the Creating a Partnership tab below for details about what you need to do to add your domestic partner to your benefits.

See Family Changes – Domestic Partnership for detailed information about adding your partner and partner’s children to your benefits within 30 days of establishing your domestic partnership.

There are tax consequences if you cover a domestic partner or partner’s children on your benefits. More information is available on the Tax Consequences tab.

* Exception –Employee Reimbursement Account (ERA) program.  You do not need to create a domestic partnership to claim medical and dependent day care expenses incurred by your same-sex spouse or spouse’s children.

Creating a Partnership

There are two different types of domestic partnerships that you may establish:

  • Chapter 40 domestic partnership allows you to add your domestic partner and partner’s children to all benefit plans (including health insurance). Your domestic partner will also be considered a spouse equivalent under the Wisconsin Retirement System, Wisconsin Deferred Compensation, and all life insurance plans.
  • UW System domestic partnership allows you to add your domestic partner and partner’s children to all benefit plans except those administered by the Department of Employee Trust Funds (health insurance and State Group Life Insurance). Your domestic partner will also be considered a spouse equivalent for all life insurance plans except State Group Life Insurance.

If you establish a UW System domestic partnership, you may later establish a Chapter 40 domestic partnership if you want to add your partner to your health insurance and/or State Group Life Insurance.

A domestic partnership cannot be established after the death of the employee or domestic partner.

Chapter 40 Domestic Partnership

A Chapter 40 domestic partnership is authorized by Chapter 40 of Wisconsin State Statute. You may create a Chapter 40 domestic partnership by submitting an ETF Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (ET-2371) to the Department of Employee Trust Funds (see instructions on affidavit).

You should submit benefits applications to add your domestic partner and partner’s children to your coverage and a copy of the affidavit to you institution’s benefits office at the same time you submit the affidavit to ETF. This will ensure that all applications are received within 30 days of establishing the domestic partnership.

ETF will send you a notice that confirms the effective date of your domestic partnership. You must give a copy of this notice to your benefits office. Your applications will not be processed until your benefits office receives a copy of the confirmation notice.

UW System Domestic Partnership

You may create a UW System domestic partnership by submitting an UWS Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (UWS-50) to your institution’s benefits office (see instructions on affidavit).

You should submit benefit applications to add your domestic partner and partner’s children to your coverage at the same time you submit the affidavit.

Effective Date of Domestic Partnership

  • Chapter 40 domestic partnership – the date the affidavit is accepted by the Department of Employee Trust Funds
  • UW System domestic partnership – the date the affidavit is accepted by your UW institution

Tax Consequences

You must determine if your domestic partner and/or your partner’s children are considered your tax dependents for insurance purposes.  If they are not considered tax dependents, there are tax implications. 

How to Determine Tax Dependent Status

In a Same or Opposite-Sex Domestic Partnership – Not Legally Married

In order to be a tax dependent, your domestic partner and partner’s children must meet the federal qualifications for a “qualifying relative.” In general a “qualifying relative” must meet the following tests:

  • The person does not meet the "qualifying child" tests; and
  • The person must live with you all year as a member of your household; and
  • You must provide more than half of the person’s support for the year (see the Tax Dependent Status Worksheet for help determining this).

Typically a domestic partner’s child is a “qualifying child” of the domestic partner and is not a tax dependent of the employee.

In a Same-Sex Domestic Partnership – Legally Married

If you are legally married to your same-sex spouse, your spouse and spouse’s children are considered your tax dependents for federal tax purposes, but you will need to determine if they are dependents for Wisconsin tax purposes.

In order for your same-sex spouse and spouse’s children to be tax dependents under Wisconsin tax laws, they must meet the definition of a “qualifying relative” as explained above.  If they do not meet the definition of “qualifying relative,” they are considered non-tax dependents under Wisconsin tax law (see Imputed Income).

The information above should not be used as the sole source of information to determine your domestic partner’s tax status. UWSA staff and your institution cannot provide tax advice. The IRS's tests are described in detail in IRS Publication 501. Note: the gross income requirement in Publication 501 does not apply when determining the pre-tax treatment of insurance deductions (per IRS Notice 2004-79).

You should consult with your tax advisor or the IRS if you have questions on how the federal rules apply to your situation.

Post-Tax Benefit Deductions

If a non-tax dependent is covered under any of the following benefit plans, the premium must be taken on a post-tax basis:

  • EPIC Benefits+
  • Dental Wisconsin
  • VSP Vision Insurance

Note:  If you cover a same-sex spouse and the spouse is considered a non-tax dependent under Wisconsin tax law, the premium is taken post-tax for the above benefit plans.

Imputed Income

If a non-tax dependent is covered under State Group Health Insurance, the fair market value of the coverage attributed to the non-tax dependent(s) is considered taxable income to the employee (imputed income). Additional taxes due to imputed income can range from $100 to several hundred dollars per month.

If you cover a same-sex spouse on your health insurance, you are not subject to imputed income for federal tax purposes; however you are still subject to imputed income for Wisconsin tax purposes (unless your spouse and/or spouse’s children meet the definition of a “qualifying relative” as explained above).

If your domestic partner is also a State or UW employee and you would be subject to imputed income if you were both covered under a family health plan, you may both have single coverage or one of you may have family coverage to cover dependent children while the other partner has single coverage.

See the imputed income calculators and imputed income tables at UW Service Center for more information.

If you need to change the tax status of your domestic partner, please complete the Dependent Tax Status Change Form (UW1541) and submit it to your benefits office.

Leave Benefits

Sick Leave

You may use sick leave to care for a domestic partner and domestic partner’s children and after the death of the domestic partner or partner’s children. See Sick Leave for details.

Family & Medical Leave

See Family and Medical Leave for detailed information about the state and federal laws, including information about leave for a same-sex spouse or spouse's children.

Wisconsin Family & Medical Leave (WFMLA)

You can take up to two weeks of job-protected leave per year to care for your domestic partner or partner’s parent who has a serious health condition.

You can take up to six weeks of job-protected leave within 16 weeks of birth or adoption of a domestic partner’s child.

Federal Family & Medical Leave (FMLA)

You can take up to twelve weeks of job-protected leave per year to care for your domestic partner’s child with a serious health condition and/or after the birth or adoption of your domestic partner’s child.

You must have an in loco parentis relationship to your partner’s child. You stand in loco parentis to a child if you have day-to-day responsibilities relative to the child – no biological or legal relationship to the child is required.

Ending A Domestic Partnership

If you end your domestic partnership, you need to take action to remove your former domestic partner and partner’s children from your benefit plans. For more information, refer to Family Changes - End of Domestic Partnership.

When you remove a domestic partner and partner’s children from insurance coverage, you should also confirm the tax status of all remaining dependents with your benefits office to ensure that the payroll system is updated correctly and you are not improperly taxed.

To end a domestic partnership for benefits purposes, you must submit an Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership. If you later want to re-establish a domestic partnership with the same person, you must go through the process of establishing a domestic partnership again.

Chapter 40 Domestic Partnership

  • To end your Chapter 40 Domestic Partnership, you or your former partner must submit a an ETF Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership (ET-2372) to the Department of Employee Trust Funds within 30 days of the end of your partnership.
  • The domestic partnership is ended as of the date that ETF receives the affidavit.
  • It is the responsibility of the partner submitting the affidavit to notify the other partner that he or she is terminating the domestic partnership.
  • The termination of a Chapter 40 Domestic Partnership is irrevocable.
  • Once an ETF Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership (ET-2372) is filed, you cannot enroll a different domestic partner under any benefit plans for at least 6 months.

UW System Domestic Partnership

  • To end your UWS Domestic Partnership, you or your former partner must submit a UWS Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership (UWS-51) to your benefits office within 30 days of the end of your partnership.
  • The domestic partnership is ended as of the date your benefits office receives the affidavit.
  • It is the responsibility of the partner submitting the affidavit to notify the other partner that he or she is terminating the domestic partnership.
  • The termination of the UW System Domestic Partnership is irrevocable.

If you marry your opposite-sex domestic partner:

  • A domestic partnership ends on the date of marriage - you are not required to submit an Affidavit of Termination of Domestic Partnership.
  • Submit new enrollment applications to change your domestic partner’s status to spouse. This change may lower your insurance costs if you’re paying imputed income or any premiums are being deducted post-tax due to covering a domestic partner.
  • Refer to Family Changes - Domestic Partnership to Marriage for detailed benefit information.

Forms & Publications