Civil Union FAQ

What is a civil union? It’s a legally recognized relationship between two people with state-level protections for the couple. Like domestic partnerships, civil unions originated as an alternative course of action for same-sex couples who couldn’t marry. Same-sex marriage is legal in all states currently, but many same-sex marriages were civil unions first. When it comes to the dissolution of a civil union vs. marriage, procedurally, there are no consequential differences for civil union partners.

Civil Union vs. Marriage

The main differences between a civil union and a marriage are as follows:

  • – Not all states recognize civil unions. If two civil union partners move to a state where civil unions aren’t recognized, they may lose their protections.
  • – Again, civil unions give only state-level protections. Federal benefits and protections aren’t yet available, whether the couple is same-sex or opposite-sex. However, the U.S. Supreme Court made it a requirement for states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case. This is one example of federal-level protections married couples receive.
  • – Culturally, marriage carries a different connotation from a civil union. Now, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples who view marriage as being more meaningful can marry and receive federal-level protections and benefits — no matter which state they live in.

Dissolution of a Civil Union vs. Marriage

In Illinois, married couples and civil union partners must follow the law as it is described in Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act when they choose to end their legally recognized relationship. In both cases, the process starts with a petition for dissolution. The steps taken during a married couple’s divorce will be the same as the steps taken during a civil union divorce. The same laws apply to different aspects of divorce like property division, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), and prenuptial and pre-civil union agreements.

Additionally, civil union partners seeking a dissolution of a civil union can use the same dispute resolution methods as spouses seeking a dissolution of marriage. Negotiation, mediation, litigation, collaborative law, or a combination of these processes is available to divorcing civil union partners. Consequently, there are no lawyers who specialize in just the dissolution of civil unions or just the dissolution of marriage; both follow the same process and end with a judgment for dissolution.

Rely on Conniff Law Offices for Family Legal Advice

If you and your partner are seeking a dissolution of your civil union, the family legal team at Conniff Law Offices can help. We’ll assist you with navigating the laws and procedures involved in dissolving a civil union. Contact us to request an immediate case review or to schedule a consultation at our offices.

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