Partnership Parenting

If you are in a committed relationship but choose not to marry, you have the option to enter into a civil union. This is a recognized legal union that can help protect you and your partner, as well as your children. In partnership parenting, you have the same rights and responsibilities as married parents.

Can parenting partners enter into a domestic partnership?

Domestic partnership is no longer an option in Illinois. In Cook County, the Domestic Partnership Registry was “sunsetted” in 2011. For partners who hold a Domestic Partnership Certificate, the partnership is still valid and a matter of public record. However, no new Domestic Partnership Certificates will be issued. The term domestic partnership now refers to a committed, long-term, informal relationship, not a union that is legally binding. Illinois now allows civil unions instead of formal domestic partnerships.

Is parenting different in a civil union than in a marriage?

All parents have rights and responsibilities regarding their children. They have the right to spend time with them, to make decisions concerning them, and to raise them as they see fit. Parents also have a responsibility to provide for, protect, and care for their children. The same parental rights and responsibilities exist for parents in a civil union as for parents in a marriage.

Do stepparents have rights in a civil union?

A unanimous ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court in September 2020 established that parents in a civil union have the same rights as stepparents as individuals who are married, and those rights will continue after the death of a spouse. Illinois law states in 750 ILCS 75:

“A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.”

What happens with children when a civil union is dissolved?

In Illinois, a civil union is dissolved in almost the same way as a divorce. The partner wishing to terminate the union must file a Petition for Dissolution of a Civil Union with the court. The other partner must be served with a summons and a copy of the petition by a private process server or the sheriff. This begins the dissolution process. Allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time with a child, and child support will be agreed upon between the partners or determined by the court, as in a divorce.

What are the parenting rights of civil union partners in Illinois?

Partners in a civil union have certain family law rights and responsibilities, including:
Duty of joint financial support and liability for family debts
Access to stepparent and joint adoption on the same terms as opposite-sex married couples
Legal presumption that both partners are parents of children born into the civil union. (Nevertheless, non-biological parents may want to adopt children, as they may travel to other states that do not recognize the civil union or the presumption of parentage it creates in Illinois.)
Access to custody, visitation, and support orders concerning children if the union dissolves
Protection for partners and their children under domestic violence and other laws

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