As of 2011, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples may enter civil unions. Civil unions are similar to marriages, but there are differences. Civil unions are granted by the county clerk's office. To legally enter a civil union, both partners must be 18 years old or older and they may not be blood relatives.
Before you enter a civil union with your partner, talk to an experienced family attorney about your rights and obligations following the union. These rights differ from those afforded to married couples. As of 2014, same sex couples have the right to marry in Illinois under the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Marriage Fairness Act. However, some couples continue to opt for a civil union instead.
Applying for a Civil Union
To apply for a civil union license, a couple must appear at the county clerk's office together and present valid identification, such as their driver's licenses or passports. They must then fill out and sign the civil union license application and pay the $60 license fee. The license is issued while the couple waits and remains valid for the next 60 days, during which time the couple can be joined in a ceremony anywhere in the county.
Differences Between Civil Unions and Marriages
Marriages are recognized federally. Civil unions are only recognized at the state level. That means that married couples may divorce in any state. Couples in civil unions, on the other hand, may only divorce and enjoy certain benefits in the states where they are recognized. Couples in civil unions also do not have access to all the tax and Social Security benefits that married couples enjoy.
Couples in civil unions have the following rights in Illinois:
- The right to jointly own property;
- The right to make medical decisions for each other in the event one partner is unable to make his or her own decisions;
- The right to share a room in a nursing home;
- The right to file a wrongful death claim on each others' behalf;
- The right to file a workers’ compensation claim on each others' behalf;
- The right to collect each others' pension benefits a following death; and
- The right to inherit each others' property in the event that either partner does not have a will when they die.
Dissolving a Civil Union
In Illinois, civil unions are dissolved through the divorce process. An individual must file to end his or her civil union within the county where he or she lives.
The same laws that govern the division of property, spousal maintenance, child support and child custody arrangements for divorcing couples also apply to couples ending their civil unions.
Family Attorneys in DuPage County
If you are considering entering a civil union, converting your civil union to a marriage, or ending your marriage or civil union, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney to discuss your personal circumstances. Our team of experienced attorneys can provide ample knowledge about the issues you are facing and walk you through the next steps of your case.