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Do Civil Unions Allow the Same Parenting Rights as Married Couples?

 Posted on September 30,2020 in Parental Rights

Kane County family law attorney civil union

For decades, gay and lesbian couples in the United States have been fighting a long and hard battle for marriage equality. In the late 1990s, the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as one man and one woman and allowed states not to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states under their laws. In 1996, the state of Illinois made it illegal for same-sex partners to marry. However, in 2011, the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was passed, which gave both same-sex and opposite-sex couples similar rights and protections to those of married couples.

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that defining marriage as only being between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. In 2015, the Court also ruled that allowing individual states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states was unconstitutional. This effectively granted same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry and subsequently most states turned domestic partnerships and civil unions into marriages, but Illinois kept civil unions as an option for cohabitating couples. Though civil unions give couples virtually the same rights and protections as married couples, there are a few issues that fall into a legal gray area. One such issue is parental rights within a civil union.

Illinois Civil Unions and Parental Rights

Arguably, the biggest gray areas when it comes to civil unions is parental rights and how those are allocated, even in the case of the child’s biological parent dying. Currently, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) defines a step-parent as “ a person married to a child’s parent, including the person married to the child’s parent immediately prior to death.” The wording of this definition has created the possibility of difficulties for couples who are in civil unions. Recently, one case even made it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Rules Parenting Rights Are the Same

In a relatively recent Illinois Supreme Court case, the court sided with the appellant. Ironically, the case did not involve an LGBTQ couple, but an opposite-sex couple. The couple was in a civil union and lived with one another, along with the man’s child, identified as A.S., and the woman’s three children. After the man passed away, A.S.’s mother refused to let the child live with or visit the woman or the woman’s children. As a result, the woman petitioned for parenting time allocation and decision-making responsibilities. The Supreme Court ruled last week that partners in a civil union have all of the same parenting rights as those who are married.

Contact a Kane County Civil Union Lawyer Today

This recent Illinois Supreme Court decision is a significant ruling that could affect the lives of many LGBTQ and opposite-sex couples who are in civil unions. Not only does this decision reaffirm the legitimacy of a civil union as an option for an alternative to marriage, but it is also a positive step toward marriage equality for all. If you are thinking about getting a civil union, are not sure if a civil union is right for you, or are looking to dissolve your civil union, the skilled legal team at the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C., can help. Our knowledgeable St. Charles, IL civil union attorneys can help you navigate any issues you may be facing in your civil union. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at 630-409-8184.




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The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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