April 23, 2015

Civil Unions: Not Just for Same-Sex Couples

Illinois family law attorney, Same Sex Marriage

With the increasing social acceptance of same-sex marriages across the country, many states are moving away from civil unions for same-sex couples. In February of 2014, according to the Cook County Clerk’s office, marriage licenses for same-sex couples became available, and a marriage equality law went into effect for the state of Illinois.

While this certainly cut down the number of civil unions being filed in the state of Illinois, it did not eradicate them. Civil unions, or domestic partnerships, are available to both same-sex couples and heterosexual couples, and there are several reasons why heterosexual couples opt for a civil union instead of a marriage.

According to the ACLU Illinois, a civil union provides all of the legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits of the law that the state grants to married couples. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Ability to jointly own property;
  • Protections against losing joint property;
  • Right to make decisions regarding medical care;
  • Right to recover partner’s wrongful death;
  • Ability to share and recover governmental benefits, such as pension plans, retirement plans, and worker’s compensation benefits.

Yet civil unions may not be recognized in all states, and a civil union does not provide the same federal protections enjoyed by married couples.

What, then, are the benefits of a civil union instead of a marriage?

According to Forbes, there could be a financial incentive. By choosing a civil union, some couples are able to avoid paying a federal income tax marriage penalty. Yet it could work both ways: couples in a civil union are barred from filing jointly on a tax return, and thus unable to benefit from a marriage bonus for which they may otherwise qualify.

Contact a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney for More Information

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the differences between a civil union and a marriage to determine which is best for you, the first step is to seek legal counsel. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today.