Human Resources

Eligible Dependents

WHOI recognizes that with a diverse workforce comes a broad array of personal circumstances and individual needs. The definition of family for one employee can be different - but equally as significant - from that of another.

As an eligible employee of the WHOI benefits programs, you may enroll a variety of eligible dependents.  Subject to eligibility rules, the Plan defines eligible dependents as your:

• Legal Spouse,
• Children* up to age 26,
• Children of any age that are mentally or physically disabled,
• Domestic Partner **, and
• Domestic Partner’s children* up to age 26.

To select the benefit choices and coverage options that best suit your needs, please carefully read this information, along with your other benefits information. If you have further questions, contact the Benefits team at  In addition, you may want to consult a tax or legal consultant for further assistance.

* Coverage for Children ends on the last day of the month in which the child turns age 26.

** Coverage for Domestic Partners (same or oposite gender) and their children is subject to the Domestic Partner Guidelines and an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership is required to be completed and submitted with the supporting documentation to Benefits before coverage can begin.  Imputed income will apply.


If you are regularly scheduled to work at least 20 hours per week, you are eligible for WHOI medical and dental benefits.  You may also enroll your eligible dependents as defined above.

Benefit Options

The following benefit options are available to you and your eligible dependents:

  • Medical coverage
  • Dental coverage
  • Life Insurance
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) Insurance

What is a Legal Spouse?

A legal spouse is a person of the same or oposite gender who is legally married to a WHOI employee.  On August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service ruled that same-gender couples who are legally married from a state that recognizes same-gender marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether or not the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-gender marriages. The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the Supreme Court's decision on June 26, 2013 invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) under federal tax law.  At the state level, Massachusetts already recognizes same-gender married couples.

What Is a Domestic Partner?

Domestic partners are defined as two people who meet all of the following requirements:

  • Share a committed relationship sharing financial interdependence and intend to remain in the relationship indefinitely,
  • Share a primary residence,
  • Are age 18 or older,
  • Are not blood relatives,
  • Share joint responsibility for each other's welfare,
  • Are each other's sole Domestic Partner,
  • Are not legally married, and
  • Are legally able to enter into a contract.

To be eligible for benefits, you and your Domestic Partner must complete and submit an "Affidavit of Domestic Partnership" to Human Resources attesting that your relationship meets the outlined requirements along with the at least two (2) different supporing documents (oulined in the List of Acceptable document) before coverage can begin.

To enroll your Domestic Partner, you must submit:

  1. A completed “Affidavit of Domestic Partnership” which must be notarized and signed by the WHOI employee and the Domestic Partner, 
     2. Complete either Option 1 or Option 2:

Option 1:

A copy of two (2) of the following documents:

    • Proof of shared residence via joint mortgage statement, joint rental agreement, or deed,
    • Automobile title or registration showing joint ownership of a vehicle,
    • Joint checking, bank, or investment account statement,
    • Joint credit account statement, or
    • A will and/or life insurance policy which designates the other as primary beneficiary.
    • WHOI beneficiary forms count.
Option 2:
Proof of a Registered Domestic Partnership registered with the state of residence; or an executed agreement (other than the “Affidavit of Domestic Partnership”) documenting the domestic partnership as allowed, required, or accepted by the state of residence.

Note: Proof of eligibility and dependency documents must be dated prior to the date of enrollment.  One document must be dated at least 12 months prior to the date of enrollment and the other documents must be dated within 60 days prior to the date of enrollment.

Coverage for Domestic Partners is subject to Imputed Income

Adding an Eligible Dependent to Coverage

You may add eligible dependent to your coverage during Open Enrollment period, which is held in the fall each year for coverage to be effective on January 1st.  However, if you experience a Qualified Life Event as defined by the IRS (such as marriage, divorce, birth/adoption of a child, etc.), you may be able to make a changes consistent with the Qualified Life Event.  If you experience a Qualified Life Event, within 31 days of the Qualified Life Event date you must submit a completed Benefits Enrollment form with any applicable supporting documentation (such as proof of loss of coverage or marriage) to Human Resources.  Otherwise, you will lose your opportunity to make changes and will need to wait until Open Enrollment to make changes unless you experience another Qualified Life Event.    

NOTE: Domestic Partner coverage may be subject to after tax deductions and imputed income.

Last updated: November 7, 2017