Converting a Civil Union Into a Marriage

Between 2011 and 2014, couples throughout the state of Illinois took advantage of the availability of civil unions. Primarily, this institution was designed as a way for same-sex couples to legally formalize their relationships before marriage was an available option. Opposite-sex couples may have also entered into civil unions for a host of reasons, including rejection of the state’s then anti-same-sex marriage law or a rejection of marriage as an institution altogether. Whatever the reason for entering into a civil union, at some point a couple may wish to convert their civil union into a marriage, and doing so is possible.

What is a Civil Union?

Civil unions were created as an institution in Illinois by the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. Civil unions can be between opposite-sex couples or same-sex couples. Parties to civil unions are entitled to the same protections, benefits, and responsibilities that the state of Illinois affords to married persons.

The difference between a marriage and a civil union, from a legal perspective, is that a civil union may not convey all of the federal benefits upon a couple that a marriage would. The process for the dissolution of a civil union is quite similar to the process for the dissolution of a marriage.

How Does One Convert a Civil Union into a Marriage?

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Illinois, some couples who entered into civil unions may wish to convert their unions into marriages. Illinois statute allows for this. While no one can be forced to convert a civil union into a marriage, couples can voluntarily do so. One way to do this is to simply apply for a marriage license and to have the marriage solemnized as would any couple seeking to enter into a marriage in Illinois.

Someone who is in a civil union cannot enter into a marriage with an outside party, unless that civil union is dissolved, but he or she may enter into a marriage with his or her civil union partner. The fee for applying for a marriage license is supposed to be waived in these cases.

During the one-year period following the legalization of same-sex marriages in Illinois there is an alternative method of converting a civil union into a marriage. A couple may simply file an application with a county clerk to have their civil union legally designated and recorded as a marriage, and deemed effective on the date of the solemnization of the civil union. There is no fee for this application process either. In order for couples to be eligible for this process they must be in a valid civil union and there must not be a petition for the dissolution of that union pending in any court.

Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C.

If you have questions regarding your civil union or marriage, or how to dissolve either type of union, you will need the assistance of an experienced Illinois family law attorney. Contact Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today at 630-665-7676. Our experienced family law attorneys are available to help you.