More States Approve Civil Unions

By Rachel D.S. Schmidt

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Civil Union Act in January, Illinois joined about a dozen other states in providing legal protection to same-sex couples.

The bill allows for civil unions defined as a “legal relationship” between two persons of either the same or opposite sex. Civil unions give same-sex couples many of the same rights traditional married couples receive from their state.

However, not all states recognize civil unions and the federal government currently does not recognize civil unions either.

Once a civil union is established, pursuant to the act, the parties are entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protection, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by state law to spouses, included those derived from the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. This would include, but not be limited to, division of property, allocation of debt, maintenance, custody, visitation and child support.

With civil unions it is also important to be aware of the residency requirements prior to filing, just like you would when filing for a divorce.

Dissolution of civil unions can be filed in Illinois if at the time the action was commenced one of the spouses was a resident of this state for 90 days. Civil unions entered into in other states will be given reciprocity meaning that parties now living in Illinois who obtained civil unions in other states can seek dissolutions pursuant to Illinois law.

The act, officially titled the Illinois Religious and Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, sets forth the requirements and procedures of establishing a civil union and will become effective June 1.

Dissolutions of civil unions shall be filed in the county where the petitioner or respondent reside or where the parties’ certificate of civil union was issued, if in Illinois. Therefore, it would be advisable for a person contemplating a dissolution of civil union to contact legal counsel for further discussion.

Cordell & Cordell is a domestic litigation firm with offices in 18 states.


mens divorce lawyerRachel D.S. Schmidt is a Senior Attorney in the Edwardsville, Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Schmidt is admitted to practice law Illinois and Missouri as well as in the Southern and Northern Districts of Illinois and the Eastern District of Missouri. Ms. Schmidt received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1999, from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, where she graduated summa cum laude. She received her Juris Doctor from St. Louis University School of Law in 2002, where she was an editor of the Public Law Review.

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