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Parental Responsibilities When Civil Unions End

If you entered into a civil union in Chicago years ago and now have children from the civil union, what happens if you want to dissolve your legal relationship? Will the recent changes to Illinois child custody laws impact the way a court allocates parental responsibilities in your civil union dissolution case? Generally speaking, your case will not be handled any differently than if you were in a marriage when it comes to parental responsibilities and parenting time. However, we know that some same-sex couples do have concerns about how the court will allocate parental responsibilities when one or both parents are not the biological parents of the child.

We would like to address the issue of parental responsibilities and the dissolution of civil unions in the Chicago area following the implementation of new child custody laws.

How Does the Court Allocate Parental Responsibilities if We Dissolve Our Civil Union?

Imagine that a same-sex couple entered into a civil union. During the course of the civil union, the couple decided to have a child. In some cases, perhaps one of the partners is a biological parent to the child and the other parent legally adopted the child. Or, perhaps both of the partners in the civil union legally adopted the child. Regardless of the distinction, the Illinois Parentage Act makes clear that a parent-child relationship can be established in a number of ways, including but not limited to:

● A woman giving birth to the child;
● Voluntary acknowledgement of paternity; and/or
● Legal adoption.

If you are in a civil union and both you and your partner have an established parent-child relationship through one of those routes, then the court will examine your child custody case—now known by law as a question of parental responsibilities and parenting time—as it would any other case.

While parents do not have to be married or in a legal civil union to be able to address matters of child custody through the court system, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (750 ILCS 75/) nonetheless makes clear that any two persons who enter into a civil union have the same “obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.”

In other words, the court is not going to look at your child custody case differently than one involving a couple getting divorced simply because you are in a legal civil union (as opposed to a marriage). And if you are concerned about issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation (when the court decides what is in the best interests of the child as it allocates parental responsibilities), you should know that you are protected by the Illinois Human Rights Act (775 ILCS 5/).

Allocating Parental Responsibilities in Civil Union Dissolutions

As we mentioned above, the process for allocating parental responsibilities and parenting time—previously known as child custody and visitation—will proceed under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/). If the parents in the civil union can come to an agreement about parental responsibilities and parenting time, then they can create a “parenting plan” that the court can approve. If they cannot come to an agreement, the court will allocate parental responsibilities based on what is in the best interests of the child. As in any other child custody matter, the court will take into account a wide variety of factors in making this determination.

Speak with a Chicago Civil Union Attorney

If you have questions about child custody and dissolving your civil union, an experienced Chicago civil union lawyer can assist with your case. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates to learn more about our services.