Dissolving a Civil Union in Illinois

 Posted on January 07, 2015 in Divorce

gay divorce, Illinios family law attorney, Illinios divorce lawyerBefore Illinois permitted same-sex marriage, gay couples had the right to enter into civil unions. (Heterosexual couples, too, have this option.) Semantics and ceremonial purposes aside, there is not much difference between a marriage and a civil union in Illinois, especially since the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act took effect in 2011. That act gives civilly unioned couples the same rights under state law as married couples.

Those rights include the right to de-couple. For a married couple, it means the right to divorce. For a civilly unioned couple, it means the right of dissolution. The laws applicable to a divorce are the same as those applicable to a civil union dissolution. Thus, all couples receive the same benefits under the law when they break up, whether the break up is a marriage or a civil union. Couples in a civil union, like in a marriage, will need to resolve:

  • Disputes regarding the division of property;
  • Whether one spouse will make maintenance payments to the other spouse;
  • Child custody and visitation rights; and
  • Any other issues that arise when the union dissolves.

Establishing Grounds for Dissolution

The first step toward dissolution is to file a petition with the appropriate court. This petition must establish that one of the following grounds for dissolution exists:

  • The respondent was and continues to be impotent;
  • The respondent was already married (and the spouse was living when the second union occurred);
  • The respondent committed adultery;
  • The respondent willfully deserted the petitioner for at least one year;
  • The respondent has been habitually drunk for at least two years;
  • The respondent has been a drug addict for at least two years;
  • The respondent has attempted to poison or otherwise kill the petitioner;
  • The respondent is guilty of extreme and repeated physical or mental cruelty;
  • The respondent was convicted of a felony subsequent to the marriage; or
  • The respondent has infected the petitioner with a sexually transmitted disease.

If none of the above grounds exists, the petitioner may instead establish that the couple has lived separate and apart for at least two years. If the petitioner pursues these grounds for dissolution, he or she must also prove that:

  • The couple has lived apart for a continuous period;
  • The couple has irreconcilable differences; and
  • The court has determined that reconciliation failed and that future attempts to reconcile would not be in the best interests of the family.

Note that the separation period includes any cohabitation where the spouses made good-faith attempts to reconcile and participated in couples counseling.

A couple wishing to dissolve their civil union – just like a couple wishing to divorce – should contact one of our experienced Kane County divorce attorneys today. We can assist those in the St. Charles area.
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