Are There Benefits to Getting a Civil Union Instead of a Marriage?

Wheaton family law attorney for civil unionsIn 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.


How Do Pet Ownership Trends Affect Illinois Divorce Cases?

Wheaton property division lawyer for pet ownershipFor many couples, pets become a part of their family. In fact, couples who do not have kids often treat their pets more like children, caring for them and their best interests as if they were the couple’s own offspring. As a result of this growing trend, the legal system has recently needed to adapt, and when it comes to divorce, pet custody has become a much more complicated issue.

Trends in Pet Ownership

It is true: pets are becoming more and more a part of our families. Your cat might rub its head against you out of warm affection, or your dog might try to comfort you with a lick on the face when you are upset. It is easy to see why pets are viewed as sentient beings like children as opposed to property. Statistics show that this trend is likely to continue:

  • On average, more than half of the households in the U.S. have pets.

  • The majority of pet owners today are millennials, many of whom are childless and, in a sense, use pets as a proxy for children, caring for them in much the same way.

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association conducted a survey that says 80% of pet owners view their pets as members of their family.

The Latest Laws Concerning Pets

For years, pets have been viewed as property by the legal system. This means that during the divorce process, when the judge, the lawyers, and the spouses would consider who should get the pets, they would make such a determination in much the same way that they would decide on who gets a car or a couch. However, due to the recent trends in pet ownership, new legislation has passed that moves the legal system more toward viewing pets as what they are: living, breathing beings who many argue deserve many of the same rights as people. In particular, the following legal decisions have been made recently:

  • Outlawing Animal Cruelty—By 2014, all 50 states had passed legislation making it illegal to be cruel to animals. In November of 2019, a bipartisan bill was signed into law that made animal cruelty a federal crime, a major step forward in moving the legal definition of animals away from mere property.

  • Pet Protection Orders—In at least 34 states, if you suspect abuse toward a pet, you can request that a judge include that pet in protection orders related to domestic violence. This does not just protect the pet against harm; it also proves that pets are no longer viewed as property in the legal system.

  • Pet Custody—In three states, including Illinois, laws have been passed that enable pets to be viewed more like children in divorce cases. In Illinois, the well-being and best interests of the pet should be given thorough consideration when determining who will own the pet, similar to how a child’s well-being and best interests are considered during child custody hearings. In fact, in all three states where these laws have passed—Alaska, Illinois, and California—judges have the right to assign either sole ownership or joint ownership of pets to divorcing spouses. Many other states are considering adopting such laws as well.

Contact a DuPage County Pet Custody Lawyer

If you are considering a divorce, and you are wondering what will happen with your pet, contact a Wheaton divorce attorney at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation. Andrew Cores Family Law Group will guide you through the process and help you ensure that the well-being and best interests of your pets are taken into consideration every step of the way.


Should We Stay Together for the Kids Instead of Getting a Divorce?

DuPage County family law attorney for divorce and childrenOne common question that married couples often need to face is whether they should stay together for their kids. In many cases, there may be equally convincing arguments for getting a divorce or staying together. The decision will ultimately depend on your situation and whether you think you and your spouse will be able to meet your children’s needs after your divorce. Before you decide on how to proceed, you may want to consider how your divorce will affect your children and whether other factors will play a role in your case.

The Effects of Divorce on Children

Studies suggest that divorce can have substantial short-term effects on children. These may include:

  • Emotional disturbances, such as anxiety, anger, and stress

  • Regression

  • Feeling guilt/shame

  • Issues at school

  • Bad overall behavior

The primary reason for these problems is that, in general, children do best when they are in predictable, stable families. Without the security of a traditional family unit, children may struggle to adjust to the uncertainty in their lives and the changes they experience when their parents get divorced.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It is worth noting that the aforementioned negative effects of divorce on children are short term. Within a year or two, children often adapt to their new lives, and they become comfortable with dividing their time between their parents. In this sense, children are resilient. While the negative short-term effects of divorce can be disconcerting at first, both children and the parents can take comfort in the fact that later in life, the children will have a mature understanding of their parents’ decisions to choose a happier, more fulfilled life without their spouse. The important thing is that parents should continue to provide the consistent support children have come to expect throughout their lives.

This is not to say that you should rush into divorce because you expect that your kids will be resilient. The truth is, you should deliberate upon this decision thoroughly. You will want to keep the lines of communication open between you and your spouse, and you may want to give marriage counseling a try. You should also discuss your divorce concerns with a lawyer. By understanding the difficult decisions about child custody and other issues that may need to be made during the divorce process, you can determine whether ending your marriage is the best option for you and your family.

At all times, you must consider your children’s well-being. If, by staying together with your spouse, you run the risk of your children being exposed to a hostile and stressful environment, then divorce may be the best option for everyone. However, if your and your spouse’s problems are not as serious, and your children are not experiencing stress as you attempt to work on your relationship, then it might be best to stay together. Before making a major decision about ending your marriage, you will want to understand how everyone will be affected, especially your children.

Contact a Wheaton, IL Child Custody Attorney

The decision of whether you should stay together for the kids or get a divorce should not be taken lightly. There is no definitive answer when it comes to this predicament, and every situation is different. If you are certain you want a divorce, or if you want to understand the legal issues you will need to address during the divorce process, give a DuPage County divorce lawyer a call at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation.