Borsberry Law Office
Effective June 1, 2011, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act governs the legal status for same sex and different sex couples entering into “civil unions” in Illinois. Borsberry Law Offices, P.C. is ready to handle those new changes in the law. Keep in mind that a “civil union’ is not a “marriage” in Illinois and Illinois continues to not allow same sex marriages. Rather, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act legally recognizes the relationship of two people. The Act allows those two people to apply for and obtain a state license from a county clerk’s office to establish a civil union, have a formal ceremony, and obtain a ratifying certificate issued by the clerk’s office. The civil union license is valid for 60 days, and is valid only in the county in which it was issued, which means that the couple’s civil union ceremony must take place within that county. There is a one-day waiting period before the license becomes effective. As is the case for marriages, a court can waive this waiting period for a couple who files a petition showing sufficient cause. An officiant must complete the certificate confirming that the ceremony was performed, and send it to the county clerk within ten days of the civil union ceremony.
The two members applying for Illinois civil union status must be at least 18 years’ old. Neither may currently be married, or in a civil union or substantially similar legal relationship, and neither may be closely related to each other by blood or adoption. Therefore, it may be necessary to terminate one type of legal relationship before entering into a civil union, even if with the same person. Non-Illinois residents must demonstrate that an Illinois civil union would not be prohibited in their home state.
Persons in an Illinois civil union will have the same legal benefits and protections, and be subject to the same legal responsibilities, as married couples are provided under Illinois law. These may include the right to equitable division of the relationship assets and debts upon dissolution, the responsibility of joint financial support and liability for family debts arising during the union, and the right to seek maintenance upon dissolution of the union. The new Illinois law governing civil unions makes written agreements, akin to pre-nuptial agreements, enforceable. Civil union partners may also use change their names when entering a civil union.
The new law will also provide the right to seek child custody, visitation and support orders. There is now a presumption that both partners are parents of children born into the civil union. Previously,children born out of wedlock were presumed to be that of the mother, unless there is a signed Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, which essentially confirms parentage, but gives the mother custody.
Civil unions partners will also have the right to not testify against their partner in certain legal proceedings. Illinois civil unions will also provide rights of hospital visitation, medical decision-making, and authority to receive information about a partner’s medical condition or treatment, the right to make funeral plans for a partner, and the rights of inheritance. The most anticipated right will be the right to provide health insurance for public employees. Civil union partners will also be able to hold real property in “tenancy by the entirety” and be able to file joint state income tax returns.
Illinois civil unions do not provide federal rights or responsibilities, such as the right to file joint federal income tax returns.
The new law will not only extend protections to same sex couples, but different sex couples in committed relationships who have children, incur debts, or obtain property even though not married. Even though couples in civil unions in Illinois will receive the benefits of the new law, it is still advisable to consult with an attorney on any complex legal decision. Please note that Illinois civil unions may not be recognized in all states, countries or jurisdictions.
We at Borsberry Law Offices, P.C. are advocates for our clients, not judges. We do not judge you, your family situation, or your lifestyle choices. We only advise you to take legal steps to safeguard your rights and the rights of those you care about.