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Learning More about Civil Unions in Illinois

By Nottage and Ward on March 16, 2011

SB1716 (The Civil Unions Bill) will take effect in Illinois on June 1, 2011. However, besides making civil unions legal in the state, you may not know much beyond that. Thankfully, the Cook County Clerk has provided an overview of some of the highlights of the recently passed legislation.

Civil union licenses will be issued by all county clerks in the state, and will be available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples who are both at least 18-years-old. It is important to note that the clerk’s office will not perform civil union ceremonies. After a couple obtains a civil union license, they will be required to wait until the next day to have the union “solemnized” by an officiant, such as a religious official or judge. A couple will then have up to 60 days to return their civil union license to their issuing clerk as proof of their union. To end a civil union, it must be dissolved in court like divorce, rather than simply notifying a local county clerk.

While the fees for an Illinois civil union have yet to be determined, it is believed they will be the same as marriage fees, which are $40.

There are many benefits of a civil union in Illinois, including:

  • Health insurance will be granted to a partner;
  • Partners are automatically considered parents, if applicable;
  • Partners are granted hospital visitation and healthcare decision rights;
  • Partners of military veterans are given state benefits; and,
  • The right to sue over a partner’s death is granted to those in a civil union.

However, civil unions have several important differences from marriage, including:

  • Civil union partners can’t inherit their partner’s property without paying federal taxes;
  • Immigration benefits aren’t granted to those seeking a civil union;
  • Not all states in the U.S. recognize civil unions;
  • Partners in a civil union can’t jointly file tax returns; and,
  • Upon a partner’s death, a civil union partner can’t receive their Social Security payments.

Deciding to enter into a civil union in Illinois is a big decision, and one you may not fully understand as civil unions have only recently been legalized. At Nottage and Ward, our Illinois civil union attorneys can answer any questions you may have regarding civil unions and other family law matters. Our lawyers have dedicated their practice to family law for over 20 years. Call us today at 312-332-2915 to learn more.

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