Earlier this month, news broke that Melissa Etheridge filed Court documents seeking to end her nine year partnership to Wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels.  Earlier in the year, a news story from Texas seemed to indicate that a gay couple could not get divorced in Texas because Texas does not recognize gay marriage or civil unions.  With so much conflict among the states regarding this issue, it is difficult to know what rights same sex couples have.

Effective February 19, 2007, the New Jersey Legislature amended the marriage statute to include same sex couples.  However, the statute which was enacted chose to call the relationship a civil union rather than a marriage.  The State of New Jersey has defined a civil union as a legally recognized union of two eligible individuals of the same sex.  In order to be eligible for a civil union, the parties must show that they are not a party to another civil union, domestic partnership or marriage in the state; they must be of the same sex and be at least 18 years old. 

As enacted, the statute grants all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities as are granted to spouses in a marriage, to partners in a civil union.  Parties who enter into a civil union are able to enter into Pre-Nuptial Agreements, receive inheritance from their partner, receive medical benefits through their partner and adopt children together.

With all of the benefits of marriage, also comes the ability to dissolve a civil union, just like a divorce.  The procedure for the dissolution of a civil union is the same as a divorce.  However, the Legislature has chosen to enact a separate statute setting forth the grounds for the dissolution of a civil union. 

If you are considering entering into or dissolving a civil union, contact our office to see how we can assist you.