The Chicago Family Law Blog

Domestic Partnership in Chicago

Not all romantically involved couples who share the same address for an extended period of time get married. These individuals usually referred to as domestic partners. Both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois extend employment benefits (such as health insurance or family leave) to their employees’ domestic partners, as do some private companies. Laws that apply to domestic partners often benefit homosexual couples who live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. To become domestic partners under the eyes of the law, committed couples must register at a government office.

Because of its significance in among same-sex couples, domestic partnership is an evolving and sometimes controversial area of law. Experienced Chicago family law attorneys are equipped to help you assert your rights and privileges as domestic partners.


Recently in Domestic Partnership Category

Will Illinois Allow Civil Unions For Same-Sex Couples?

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While gay-rights activist Rick Garcia said Senate Bill 1716 has enough votes among state lawmakers to get passed, according to the Alton Telegraph, the sponsor of the bill that would allow civil unions said he's not so sure.

Civil unions would give same-sex partners the exact same rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, according to reporters. While that sounds a lot like marriage, a Chicago family law attorney could better explain how the two compare.

Chicago Tribune Poll: City's Residents Split On Gay Marriage

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While a majority of Chicago-area residents responding to a Chicago Tribune poll said they support civil unions for same-sex couples, the region remains divided on same-sex marriage, the Tribune reported. The newspaper and radio station WGN, which co-sponsored the poll, surveyed 800 heads of household from the six-county Chicago region.

You don't have to be an Illinois family law attorney to know that gay and lesbian couples currently don't have the right to get married in the state, but the laws are constantly in flux and public opinion is slowly shifting in favor.

Will California's Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Affect Illinois?

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Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled recently that the voter-approved measure banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And while it's still in legal limbo, same sex couples theoretically have the right to marry in California.

But gay and lesbian couples in Chicago that want to get hitched in California may need to wait a while, as Chicago family law attorneys also would advise. The ruling already has been appealed to the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals by backers of Proposition 8 (Prop 8), the measure voted into law on 2008.

Prop 8 received most of its financial backing from the Mormon church, which ironically was persecuted for its own particularly unpopular marriage customs in the 19th Century. The church eventually banned polygamy in 1890 so that Utah could join the union, according to NewsInHistory.com.

Most Illinois state officials already offer same-sex domestic partnership benefits to their employees, on par with those extended to state treasury employees by Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias' recent executive order, according to the State Journal-Register.

The June 13 executive order allows gay and lesbian treasury employees to take time off in relation to the medical needs of their same-sex partners, in line with the rights of heterosexual employees under the Family Medical Leave Act. The department has 180 employees total.

If you're in a committed domestic partnership and would like more information about what this means legally, you might consider meeting with an Illinois family lawyer. 

Lindsey O'Brien and Rachel Miller, who have been in a committed relationship for five years, walked into the Rock Island County Clerk's Office for a marriage license but were quickly denied, as reported by the Quad City Times.

It doesn't take an Illinois family lawyer to know that two women, no matter how committed, cannot get married in the state.

The swift refusal was expected but the request was a symbolic act of protest against what the two women and countless others believe is an act of discrimination. Along with an entourage of 10 supporters, the couple walked across the Centennial Bridge to the Scott County Recorder's Office in neighboring Iowa with the same request.

Same-Sex Partners Granted Hospital Visitation Rights

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One of the rights granted to married partners is the ability to visit one another in the hospital outside of the limited visiting hours set aside for friends and other non-family visitors. Married individuals also are able to make difficult medical decisions on behalf of their partners when they are incapacitated. These hospital visitation rights are crucial.

FindLaw describes medical-related and other rights and benefits extended to married couples. Same-sex partners in committed, long-term relationships (sometimes even legally married in other states) do not have these rights. As a result, same-sex partners have been fighting for hospital visitation rights.

President Obama last week pledged to extend hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights to same-sex partners, as reported by The New York Times.

Chicago Gun Ban & Same-Sex Marriage Laws: Shared Fate?

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If asked, most people would probably say that gun-ownership advocates and same-sex marriage proponents have very little in common. One group supports a strict reading of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, while the other group wants the same rights and privileges available to heterosexual couples.

But both groups have something to gain if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff in a case challenging the constitutionality of Chicago's 28-year-old ban on handgun ownership, according to a CNN article.

Confused? Most people who are not Illinois family law attorneys or constitutional lawyers probably are, but first let's summarize the case before the nation's highest court.

Study: Living Together Before Marriage Not A Big Deal

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While some religious groups may still frown upon the act of living together as a couple before getting married, an article in USA Today cites a study concluding that prenuptial cohabitation has little effect on the ultimate success of the union. The report by the National Center for Health Statistics based its findings on a sample of nearly 13,000 families.

So even though the number of cohabitating couples and children born out of wedlock continue to climb, according to another USA Today article, it doesn't translate into a corresponding increased demand for divorce attorneys in Chicago.

Past research, according to the first article, indicated that those who described themselves as "not married but living together with a partner of the opposite sex" in fact did have a higher divorce rate after marriage.

So what has changed?

Suburban Woman Admits To Selling Ex's Boat

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A Daily Herald story about a Fox River Grove woman who admitted to selling her ex-boyfriend's speed boat illustrates what can go wrong when a couple that jointly owns property breaks up without deciding how that property should be handled. Kathleen M. Helman initially was arrested on felony charges after selling the unidentified man's 1998 Wellcraft Scarab. 

While the couple was never married or in a legal domestic partnership. But both parties were named on the boat's title and Ms. Helman said she was left with the monthly payments after her ex allegedly left her for another woman. She claims she couldn't afford to make the payments, so she sold the boat.

2010 Census To Tally Same-Sex Partnerships

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Although the State of Illinois does not legally recognize same-sex marriage, the Chicago Tribune reports that this year's federal census will allow gay and lesbian couples in otherwise committed relationships to be counted. Illinois allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners.

The article profiles North Side women, Ellen Meyers and Elena Yatzeck, who simply changed the pronouns in a traditional Christian prayer book for a 2008 commitment ceremony attended by more than 200 friends and family members.

Although any Illinois family lawyer will say it did nothing to change their legal status, the women claim the ritual "changed how they perceived us" (referring to those who attended the festivities). 

Now the federal government finally will perceive them as more than just roommates.