What is a Civil Union?

Marriage is one of the most recognizable symbols in a relationship. This process comes with benefits and responsibilities that are both culturally and legally significant. However, not everyone wants to get married or has been allowed to get married. For those who are unwilling or unable to get married, there is the option of a civil union.

While this is similar to a marriage in that it grants legal recognition to the relationship of the couple, civil unions are performed at the state level rather than the federal level.

A civil union allows many of the same privileges as marriage to a couple including:

Inheritance rights

This allows the spouse to automatically inherit all property unless the deceased spouse’s will says otherwise.

Bereavement leave

This is a legally recognized form of time off to mourn for your spouse.

Right to your spouse’s employment benefits

These could include vision, dental, or health insurance which would not be granted to a partnership that was only dating.

Automatic designation as next-of-kin by medical professionals

This allows spouses to see each other in the case that one was in the hospital with restricted visitors, and allows the spouses to make vital medical decisions on behalf of one another.

Joint ownership of property, and community property rights

Just like in a marriage, a civil union includes joint ownership of possessions and entitles each spouse to community property rights unless they specify otherwise. 

Joint state tax filings

Partners in a civil union may file state taxes jointly, but cannot file federal taxes jointly since the IRS only recognizes married couples. 

Joint parental rights

Spouses in a civil union have full parental rights over any children either born to or adopted by the couple.

Right not to testify against your civil union partner

A state court cannot force one spouse to testify against another if the spouses are in a civil union.

Right to seek financial support or alimony after a dissolution from the civil union

Even though it may not be recognized as a marriage, financial support like child support or alimony are still available to spouses in a civil union if they decide to dissolve their union.

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to a civil union as well. Since the union is performed at the state level, if the couple were to move states, their union may no longer be recognized as valid. Additionally, civil unions are not accepted by the federal government as they are only a state level proceeding. 

Nonetheless, if you feel that a civil union is right for you and your partner, you will need an experienced family law attorney to help file the necessary paperwork and seal the deal. The best place to find the right family lawyer is Attorney at Law. At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms can guarantee that you will be paired up with a local attorney who is familiar with your area’s laws and regulations. 

At AAL, our partner firms care about their clients’ experience and will do their best to ensure the smoothest, most dignified experience possible for each of their clients. Don’t wait: contact AAL today for a free, no-obligation consultation and begin your future.

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