In 2007, same-sex partners in New Jersey 18 years of age and older were granted the right to enter into civil unions that gave them many of the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples. Filing for dissolution of a civil union follows many of the same procedures as filing for divorce, but you should understand the differences before you initiate any action.
Partners who want to end their civil union will need to file a complaint for dissolution, explaining the grounds, or reasons. Although married couples have nine grounds for divorce, those in civil unions currently have seven pursuant to statute. An experienced attorney can explain the differences between divorce and dissolution proceedings and discuss which of the grounds for dissolution is best suited to your situation.
Most of the proceedings after the filing of the initial Complaint for Dissolution are substantially the same as those associated with filing for Divorce. For example, those ending a civil union should expect to submit a case information statement (CIS) showing income, assets and liabilities. The CIS is used to determine an equitable division of assets, and, if appropriate, spousal or child support. If the couple has children, the Court will also need to address custody arrangements and the Court will have the parties submit to the same processes as occur in a divorce for a heterosexual marriage. However, given the differing rights between New Jersey (and other states which recognize same-sex relationships) and those non-recognition states, parties should take great care in crafting custody agreements. An attorney knowledgeable about LGBTQ family issues can help draft pleadings and agreements which will assist same-sex couples in maintaining parental rights established in New Jersey even if those parties later move out of the states.
Traditional legal precedents and assumptions about parental rights, property rights and alimony may not apply to the issues that arise when same-sex couples end a relationship. Make sure you have an attorney who has the experience to navigate this still-evolving terrain withinFamily Law.
The grounds are not the same, nor is the process for dissolution of a DP.