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New Jersey Civil Unions - All about New Jersey Civil Unions

What/Where/How/When Of New Jersey Civil Unions


New Jersey Civil Unions Background

Civil Unions became available in New Jersey for same-sex couples on February 19th, 2007. In October 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that barring same-sex couples from marriage violated the New Jersey constitution's promise of equality for all citizens. The court gave the New Jersey Legislature 180 days to decide how to deal with the inequity. The Legislature chose to create a separate status of civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Here's what you need to know about New Jersey Civil Unions.

What is a New Jersey Civil Union?

A civil union in New Jersey is available for same-sex couples only. A couple who enters into a civil union is eligible for all the state rights that a married couple has. Because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, gays and lesbians are not eligible for any of the federal marriage benefits, including preferred immigration status, social security and medicare benefits, parental rights and veteran's benefits.

Who can get a Civil Union in New Jersey?

Anyone who is over 18, of the same sex, not married or in another civil union and is not closely related to one another can enter into a civil union. You do not have to be a New Jersey resident to enter into a civil union, but the rights of that civil union will not be portable to your home state. However, if you have entered into a civil union in Vermont or Connecticut, your civil union will be recognized in New Jersey.

How do I get a Civil Union in New Jersey?

Getting a civil union is much the same as getting a marriage license in New Jersey. You must get a license from a county clerk or registrar. You must wait 72 hours between applying for the license and receiving the civil union license. You must have a ceremony within 30 days of applying for the license.

What rights come with a New Jersey Civil Union?

New Jersey law states that civil unions grant "All of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under the law, whether they derive from stature, administrative or court rule, public policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage." Some of these rights include:
  • inheritance rights
  • family leave benefits
  • state and local tax benefits
  • rights relating to health insurance and pension benefits
  • not having to testify against a partner in a court of law
  • wrongful death rights and worker's compensation rights
  • liability for partner's debts

What about children?

Entering a civil union does not automatically give you parent status to your spouse's children. If one partner is the legal parent of the children in a relationship, the other partner still needs to apply for adoption through the courts. If a child is born after a civil union, both partners will be recognized as child's legal parents. But because this is a new area of the law, it is important that you consult with a lawyer to ensure you and your children have all the protections you can give them.

How do I terminate a New Jersey Civil Union?

The process for ending a civil union is the same in New Jersey as applying for divorce. Although you do not need to live in New Jersey to get a civil union, there is a residency requirement for dissolving the civil union.
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