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Illinois upholds no property division for domestic partners

Photo of Karen Lavin

Illinois been one of the more progressive states for years, when it comes to extending rights to those who choose non-traditional lifestyles or forms of cohabitation. However, the law has not been entirely on the side of those who choose to be in unofficial domestic partnerships, making it very difficult to achieve fair asset division for couples who choose to cohabitant and then break up. This long-standing position was revisited recently, but ultimately left standing.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled against the official recognition of common law marriage more than 35 years ago, in a case where a woman sought to receive a fair division of property from a man she'd had children with, but chose not to marry. The court revisited this issue in recent weeks when a judge from Cook County sought to be awarded a portion of her longtime partner's medical practice following the couple's breakup.

Although the court acknowledged that the public attitude regarding long-term domestic partners had shifted significantly since the issue was last addressed in the 1970's, it ultimately decided against affirming property division rights for domestic partners. One of state justice's rationalized that marriage remains a "legal relationship that all individuals may or may not enter into, Illinois does not act irrationally or discriminatorily in refusing to grant benefits and protections ... to those who do not participate in the institution of marriage."

While this decision may be disheartening to those in domestic partnerships throughout the state, there are still many ways that the great state of Illinois provides legal protection for domestic partners. If you are in a domestic partnership and want to learn more about what legal protections you may afforded, the guidance of an attorney with a bank of experience in domestic partnerships can help you become informed and protect your rights.

Source: chicagotribune.com, "Illinois Supreme Court rejects property division for unmarried couples," Robert McCoppin, Aug. 20, 2016

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