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What are Civil Union Rights?

A civil union provides legal protection between two individuals at the state level only; however, not all states recognize this. This is not considered a marriage. These rights do not give the couple protection at the federal level. They were first begun to protect and help couples against certain federal benefits marriage can impact, such as social security benefits or health insurance.

Who can enter into a civil union?

In most states the requirements for a civil union are similar:

  • The interested parties must both be over the age of 18 and live at the same residence.
  • Neither party can be legally married to someone else or be part of any other civil union.
  • The two parties cannot be related to each other; siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins or close descendants.

What is the difference between marriage and civil union?

Normally, civil unions are between same sex couples whereas a marriage refers to opposite sex couples. While marriage is nationally recognized, civil union is not recognized in all states of the US. Marriage comes with privileges and rights that civil union may not grant to a couple. The main difference between a civil union and a marriage is that a civil union is mainly used in the event that marriage is not legally possible for whatever reason.

How can someone file to end a civil union?

To end a civil union, one must usually follow the same procedure as they would if they are getting a divorce in a marriage. They can retrieve the forms at a law library at no cost or they can purchase them online in the state the couple needs to file.

How can you end a civil union that was entered into in another state?

To end a civil union in a different state you may have to go to the state in which the civil union was granted. This is because one jurisdiction cannot grant a judgment in another state to end a civil union.

Can a married same-sex couple apply for a civil union after moving to a different state?

Case Details: The state does not recognize same sex marriage.

There are two options, one is to go back to the state you were married in and get a divorce and come back and apply for a civil union. The second is to check no on the form where it asks if you were previously married.   

In a civil union is property split upon separation?

When two people are in a civil union and are separating it is much like a couple getting a divorce. The property would be divided between both parties. The best way to protect yourself from losing property is to have a prenuptial agreement drawn up before entering into a civil union.

Can you file for divorce in a different state then the civil union was issued?

Just like marriage a civil union must be dissolved if parties are separating. You do not have to live in the state in which you filed originally. However, since not all states recognize civil unions you may not be able to file in that state. If that is the case, the divorce would need to be filed in the state the union was issued.  

Can a civil union help with benefits through an employer?

The Civil Union Act gives couples the same opportunities as married couples, such as being on insurance plans. 

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