While Illinois was ahead of the curve, same-sex marriage was made legal everywhere in the United States in 2015. Many assumed that this would mean an end to civil unions and domestic partnership laws. However, civil unions and domestic partnerships in Illinois are an important part of contract and family law for many opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Many couples do not wish to get married, but still need some of the legal protections that come with marriage.
Differences Between Marriages and Domestic Partnerships
When a couple gets married, they are given certain rights by the state. These rights include ways property can be passed on in the event of death of one of the spouses, protection of family courts to divide property and allocate parental responsibilities in case of divorce, and many other rights.
When a couple lives together, but does not become legally married, they do not have many of these same rights unless they take additional steps. Domestic partnerships can be long-lasting and emotionally fulfilling for everyone involved. Illinois law makes certain tools available to give domestic partnerships more security.
Civil Unions, Contracts, and Other Tools
A couple may not wish to marry for a number of personal reasons. If a couple still wants many of the same protections and advantages of marriage under the law they can form a civil union. This is a private contract arrangement in Illinois. When the proper formalities are observed, the couple can set-up between them what should happen to their property and children in case they split up, die, or become incapacitated. Careful estate planning is also recommended with the formation of a civil union.
A formal civil union is not required to give domestic partnerships the ability to divide assets, pass property on to each other in case of death, or to make important and sensitive decisions about end of life care. Contracts and estate planning documents can make most of these arrangements, even if a couple never gets married.
In many ways, civil unions and domestic partnership agreements are like prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. They are a type of family law contract. Any provisions having to do with children will still have to be reviewed by the court to make sure they are in the best interests of the children. However, if a couple has a formal agreement, judges will usually honor the agreement on all terms, so long as it is not against public policy.
If you have questions about civil unions or domestic partnerships, please speak with an experienced DuPage County family law lawyer right away. Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today at 630-665-7676 to schedule a consultation. Make sure you understand the best way to protect your rights and your family.