In Illinois, a civil union is a legal relationship that provides the couple with substantially the same obligations, protections, and benefits given to married couples. A civil union, however, is not a marriage. Currently, Illinois recognizes marriage as only between a man and a woman. A marriage performed in another state between same sex parties is void in Illinois, however, that marriage will be recognized as a civil union within Illinois.
A civil union is created and dissolved in the same manner as a marriage and divorce. Persons seeking to establish a civil union must file an application with the county clerk and pay the applicable fees. Similar to a marriage license, a civil union license will then be issued. The civil union license permits the couple to establish the civil union within 60 days. Upon establishing the civil union, a certificate should be completed by the officiate and returned to the clerk’s office within 10 days.
If a party wishes to dissolve the civil union, that party must file a petition in the circuit court and the proceeding will be governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
There are unique issues within civil unions and the dissolution of civil unions that require close review and/or expert consultation. Examples of some issues that should be carefully considered are:
1. Impact on real property, title insurance, title clearance,
2. Identifying parties on deeds, mortgages and other recorded documents,
3. Differing State vs. Federal tax consequences,
4. Premarital agreements and validity in states that do not recognize civil unions,
5. Differing requirements for birth certificates and/or adoption of a child by two women vs. two men,
6. Property division and capital gains,
7. Division of qualified retirement plans.
An experienced family law attorney and divorce attorney will help the parties of a civil union navigate their way through the establishment and/or dissolution of a civil union.