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Civil unions now a reality in Colorado

On May 1, 2013, civil unions became legal in the state of Colorado. According to a Denver Post article, as of June 1, hundreds of licenses had been issued for couples entering into civil unions, including 124 in Boulder County and 326 in Denver. Although the law specifically states that civil unions are not the same as marriage and that the recognition of civil unions "does not alter the public policy of the state, which recognizes only the union of a man and a woman as a marriage," there are many benefits accruing to partners in a civil union that mirror those of spouses in a marriage.

Key Components Of The Civil Union Act

The Colorado Civil Union Act contains provisions governing all aspects of civil unions, from the legal definition of civil union to the steps necessary to dissolve, separate or declare invalid a civil union. Like a traditional marriage, civil unions may not be entered into by minors or wards, and relatives of a certain degree are prohibited from being parties to a civil union with each other.

The new legislation also allows partners in a civil union to receive benefits that would be available to spouses in a traditional marriage. The legislative declaration to the act specifically recognizes that one of the purposes of the act is to protect individuals from discrimination they might otherwise face when seeking housing or employment. In addition, there are numerous rights and benefits set out by statute to which parties to a civil union are now entitled:

  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Survivor benefits under certain pensions
  • Health insurance benefits
  • Family leave benefits
  • Homestead rights
  • Adoption rights

There is also a statute providing for the dissolution, legal separation and declaration of invalidity of a civil union. In states in which gay marriage or civil unions are already legal, there have also been divorces or dissolutions of the same. Statistics for such divorces or dissolutions are somewhat difficult to ascertain because some states that permit same-sex unions do not keep records concerning whether a divorce is between a man and a woman or between a same-sex couple, making it difficult for researchers to discover accurate rates of dissolution.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, one study showed that the annual dissolution rate for same-sex couples was just over 1 percent per year as of 2011, when the study was issued. The Civil Union Act contains specific provisions dealing with certain aspects of dissolution or legal separation. For instance, a person who enters into a civil union in Colorado is deemed to have consented to the jurisdiction of Colorado courts for the purpose of any action relating to the civil union, even if that party no longer resides in the state. In addition, the act states that the laws governing dissolution of marriage also apply to the dissolution of civil unions.

As with traditional marriage, partners in a civil union who are contemplating dissolution will face the same family law matters as divorcing couples, including child custody, child support, spousal support and property division.

If you are a partner in a civil union and are considering a dissolution or legal separation, you may wish to contact a family law attorney who has experience representing individuals in divorces and related matters to discuss your options and your rights.

975 North Ten Mile Drive, Suite E-15
P.O. Box 1829
Frisco, Colorado 80443

Phone: 970-368-5829
Fax: 970-668-5121
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