Everyone Can Now Get Divorced

The approval of civil unions in Illinois is, in my opinion, long overdue. Perhaps it's a step toward same-sex marriage in Illinois, although I suspect we'll have a while to get familiar with civil unions first. So let's talk about civil unions and divorce.

When I heard the news, one question it raised was how these now-legal unions can be legally dissolved. Do you just cancel the union like a contract? Or go to court and file for divorce? Apparently it's the latter.

It's no secret that Illinois' civil union law will not create complete equality. For example, the state of Illinois can't bestow federal rights on same-sex couples (like the right to receive a partners' social security, or the right to file joint tax returns). However, it can bestow state rights, and when it comes to divorce (technically called dissolution), the law is pretty much the same.

If you read the civil union law, it doesn't even bother to spell out the rules and requirements for dissolving of civil unions; it simply points to the existing law on dissolving a marriage and says that it now applies to civil unions, as well.  

So as long as you have been an Illinois resident for 90 days, and have satisfied the requirement that you have lived separate and apart for a certain amount of time, you can file for dissolution of a civil union. Just like marriage, you file for dissolution in the county where either person lives, or where the civil union was entered. Same sex couples married in another state, or those who have a civil union in another state, are considered to have a civil union in Illinois and can get a dissolution here if the basic requirements are met.

Also, the Dissolution of Marriage Act says that no dissolution can be approved until court has considered child custody, support, spousal maintenance and property division. The new law says this rule applies to civil unions, as well.

So it looks like divorce court will take on civil unions in the same way it handles marriages. Although divorce court isn't the best place on earth (far from it), it provides structure for ending a relationship and has benefits like dividing joint property and looking out for the best interests of any children from the relationship. It's an important tool, and one that will be available for Illinois couples - gay or straight - who choose to enter a civil union.


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  • Roe Conn said this was the effect. I think he said it at about the time that the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court found the state constitutional right.

    The one thing I can say is whatever one's views of the merits, at least in Illinois it was done by the legislative process, and theoretically someone is accountable to the people. It was not imposed by judges who said (1) the state constitution requires it so good luck trying to get the constitution amended [Mass], or (2) I discovered a new 14th Amendment right, and no one has standing to appeal [Cal. fed. judge, although the 9th Circuit did hear something in the case]. One could add Iowa, at least for those who said "how dare you not vote to retain the judges?"

    So, the supposedly workers' compensation lawyer loss becomes the divorce lawyer's gain. I wonder what side Jeffery Leving takes.

  • I tend not to frown so much upon pragmatic "Vigilante" justices as much as some others do, but I agree with Jack's sentiment about the means that this was achieved. However, the way the Iowa judge retentions went down still angers me. The flood of out of state money from "Family PACs" that was used to ouster the justices is a pretty good manifestation of why most people do not believe in the all powerful legislative process.

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