The process for obtaining a civil union may vary by state. Here’s everything you need to know about civil unions in Illinois.
States created civil unions for same-sex couples before gay marriage became a federal right. However, couples may still opt for civil unions if they do not wish to marry. A couple must obtain a civil union license to receive a civil union in Illinois.
Related: How to File for Divorce in Illinois
What is a Civil Union?
A civil union is a legally recognized union between a same-sex or heterosexual couple similar to marriage. However, civil unions only provide legal protections at a state level.
The benefits of a civil union include:
- Inheritance rights
- Bereavement leave to mourn a partner
- Right to a partner’s employment benefits
- Right to a partner’s health insurance
- Automatic designation as next-of-kin by medical professionals
- Joint ownership of property and community property rights
- Joint state tax filings
- Joint parental rights over biological or adoptive children
- Right to not testify against a civil union partner
- Right to financial support or alimony after a civil union dissolution
How to Enter an Illinois Civil Union
To enter an Illinois civil union, both parties must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Not be closely related by blood or adoption
- Not be in an existing marriage or civil union
Applying for a Civil Union License
A couple must appear together at one of the Clerk’s six locations for civil union licenses to apply for a civil union license in Illinois. The couple must fill out an application online or at the Clerk’s office. Couples who begin the application online must finish the process at the Clerk’s office to provide in-person signatures.
To receive a civil union license in Illinois, a couple must:
- Appear together at one of the Clerk’s six Vital Records locations
- Present valid identification with proof of age
- Fill out and sign the civil license application
- Pay the civil union license fee of $60
Once the process is complete, civil union licenses are:
- Issued during the waiting time
- Effective the day after they are issued
- Valid for 60 days
- Effective only for ceremonies performed in Chicago and suburban Cook County
After a Civil Union Ceremony
After a civil union ceremony, a couple must fill out the bottom portion of their civil union license and deliver it to a Clerk’s office. The couple may mail the license or drop it off. A couple may receive a copy of their civil union certificate upon request.
Who can certify a Civil Union?
An Illinois judge may certify a civil union, a retired judge of a court of record, a judge of the Court of Claims, a county clerk in a county having 2,000,000 or more residents, or a public official whose powers include solemnization of marriage.
Couples may certify their civil union according to any religion’s rules as long as the required officiant is in good standing.
How can couples end a Civil Union?
The dissolution of civil unions is similar to state procedures for the dissolution of marriage. If a couple wishes to end their civil union, an Illinois court must dissolve their union. Illinois courts may also dissolve a civil union if one party moves out of state.
Illinois will dissolve a civil union if:
- Either party establishes grounds for dissolution of civil union
- Parties have been living apart for two years
- Some courts in Illinois may grant the dissolution of a civil union if a couple lives apart for six months.
FAQs about Civil Unions in Illinois
How much does it cost to obtain a civil union license in Illinois?
In most counties, the license costs $30. Couples must also pay a civil union license fee of $60.
For how long is a civil union license valid?
A civil union license is valid for 60 days after its issue date. If a couple does not certify a civil union within that time window, the license becomes invalid.
Can minors obtain a civil union in Illinois?
To receive a civil union in Illinois, both parties must be adults.