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Rights of couples under the Illinois Civil Union Act

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On June 1, 2011, Illinois passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. The Act was enacted to give a new legal status to both same-sex and different-sex couples, who are in committed, but unmarried relationships.

Under the law in question, these couples were given the right to both apply and receive a state license which would entitle them to enter into a recognized civil union and have a formal ceremony. Once signed into law, it also forwarded couples who fell under the domestic partnership umbrella rights to a number of the same legal protections, benefits and responsibilities as married couples.

That being said, it allows the licensed couples to apply to be foster parents and adopt children much the same as married couples. Additionally, the law allows for any child born into the civil union to automatically be deemed a child of both parents in the relationship.

The signing of the law also gave way to the ability for the spouses to adopt a common last name. And, if the inevitable dissolution were to occur, it affords the right for the spouses to have assets and debts divided equitably or seek financial support from one another as well.

In terms of child custody, civil union members are able to seek custody, visitation and child support upon the dissolution of their relationship. They are also entitled to legal protection under domestic violence laws. If there are any pre-civil agreements before the civil union formally commenced, the agreements would have the same standing as prenuptial agreements.

Under the law, civil union couples are also granted automatic hospital visitation rights, as well as the right to make medical decisions, and to receive information about their spouse's medical condition and treatment. They also have the ability to access medical records and to make funeral arrangements.

In the event their spouse becomes deceased due to foul play, a civil union spouse has the ability to file a wrongful death claim. The law also entitles them to inherit from their spouse's estate, in the event the spouse dies intestate. They have a right to be included on their spouse's health insurance policy as well.

If you or someone you know is contemplating getting into a civil union or domestic partnership, an Illinois domestic partnership attorney can provide advice and guidance in your legal matter.

Source: Illinois State Bar Association, "A first look at the Illinois Civil Union Act," Richard Felice and Camilla B. Taylor, accessed March 10, 2017

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