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Civil Union and divorce, property rights to know
by Roger McCaffrey
2012-12-05

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Q. I want to quit my job and stay home with the kids. What are my rights if my civil union partner and I divorce?

A. Even if your partner has a much higher income than you and you will quit your job and raise the kids there is no guarantee you will get one half of everything.

First, Illinois is an equitable distribution state which means property is not necessarily

divided equally or even 50/50 — there is no guarantee that either partner will get half. The Court considers relevant factors in determining how assets are to be divided, such as length of the union, age, health and employability of the spouses, contribution, both financial and non-financial, to the acquisition of property, the parties' respective abilities to generate capital assets in the future and other factors.

Second, in a divorce action, the spouses only have rights as to martial/civil union property of the couple. Marital/civil union property is any property acquired by the parties during their civil union except for property which is specifically excluded as non-martial/civil union property. The burden is on the party claiming non-civil union property to prove through clear and convincing evidence that the property falls under one of the definitions of non-marital/civil union property.

Third, if there is a divorce, one of the couple may be entitled to maintenance (formerly known as alimony) from their civil union partner. Be aware that there are no percentage guidelines. The amount and duration of maintenance is determined based upon relevant factors including age, income and property of each party, education, length of civil union, whether the recipient's ability to earn income.

Last, a civil partner may be entitled to child support for the children of the couple. In most cases a percentage of net income guideline child support is 20% for one child, 28% for two children, 32% for three children, 40% for four children, 45% for five children, 50% for six children.

These are established general rules that apply to heterosexual marriage. Unfortunately, these rules are new to LGBT couples entering civil unions. They are important and everyone who plans to "tie the knot" should be aware of them. Please consult with your own attorney to see if these will apply to you. Next week more on divorce rights for civil union partners.


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