In 2011, Illinois passed into law the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. This law enabled both same-sex and opposite-sex couples the freedom to enter into a civil union that would give them the same legal rights in Illinois as those provided by marriage. With the new term “civil union” meant to be a substitute for “domestic partnership,” all prior domestic partnerships registered would be honored, but any future similar relationships would be referred to as civil unions.
While civil unions in Illinois were initially meant to help same-sex couples achieve similar legal rights to married couples, these legal partnerships may now be pursued for other reasons. After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States in 2015, most states converted all domestic partnerships and civil unions to marriages; however, Illinois is one of the few states that kept civil unions despite this legalization. Now that all couples, regardless of sex, can get married, why would anyone choose a civil union instead of a marriage?
Benefits of Civil Unions
Since same-sex marriage is legal across the nation, fewer and fewer people are getting civil unions. However, since civil unions are open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, some people are still choosing civil unions over marriages in order to demonstrate their commitment to their romantic partners. Among the benefits of civil unions are:
Same Rights in Illinois as Marriage—Overall, civil unions grant partners the same rights and legal protections as married couples in Illinois. However, civil unions are not recognized by federal law. The state rights with civil unions allowed for in Illinois include the following:
Equitable division assets and debts upon dissolution—Civil unions can be dissolved in much the same way as married couples can get a divorce. If such dissolution takes place, all property, assets, and debts can be divided equitably between the two partners.
Parenting time and parental responsibilities—This is treated the same in Illinois for those in a civil union as it is for those in a marriage, including determining how parents will share custody of the children from the civil union, when children will spend time with each parent, etc.
Health insurance coverage—Just as one spouse in a marriage can get health insurance coverage through his/her employer for his/her spouse, so can most partners in civil unions, depending on the employer.
Psychological Well-Being—Entering into a civil union can provide emotional benefits for partners. They might be happy to show commitment to one another by entering into such an agreement, but they will not feel restrained by the traditional label of “marriage.” In some cases, couples may prefer to avoid all of the usual trappings of a marriage, such as the wedding planning, the ceremony, and all other major activities that are expected of most married couples.
Possible Tax Benefits—One reason a couple may choose a civil union instead of a marriage is the potential tax advantages. While they will have essentially the same rights as a married couple in the state of Illinois, since the federal government does not recognize civil unions in the same way as marriages, the couple in the civil union might be able to avoid the marriage tax penalty. They will be able to pool their income throughout the year without being penalized come tax time by being taxed at a higher income bracket. However, this tax exclusion also means that the couple would not qualify for many federal benefits that married couples can receive.
Contact a Wheaton, IL Civil Union Attorney
If you are thinking about a civil union in Illinois instead of a marriage, consider giving a DuPage County domestic partnership lawyer a call at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation. With the guidance of the knowledgeable team at Andrew Cores Family Law Group, you will fully understand the benefits and drawbacks of a civil union. We will clearly explain all your present and future options, including addressing cohabitation agreements or separation agreements.