What Is A Civil Union In Colorado?

October 20, 2021

Civil Union In Colorado

Colorado is one of several states that allow civil unions, whether with opposite or same-sex couples. Civil unions were authorized by the legislature in our state in 2013, just one year prior to the recognition of same-sex marriage by Colorado courts and the United States Supreme Court. What is a civil union in Colorado? Basically, it is a relationship between two eligible people, regardless of sex, that is legally recognized. Those interested in learning more are invited to contact Johnson Law Group at (720) 463-4333 or text (720)-730-4558.

Entering a Civil Union in Colorado

Partners who wish to enter a civil union need only to take a few steps which include:

  • Applying for a civil union license with a county clerk and recorder
  • Entering a civil union prior to the expiration of the license (within 35 days of application)
  • Certifying the civil union using a religious official, member of the clergy, tribe official, or judge
  • Upon certification of the civil union, the officiant will file the certificate with the county clerk and recorder

Entering a civil union is similar in many ways to entering into a marriage.

Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships

Many people believe civil unions and domestic partnerships are the same thing, but they are not. Unlike domestic partnerships which are viewed as a legal status, civil unions are partnerships that are registered and recognized under the law in much the same way as marriage. Civil unions afford numerous state benefits such as tax benefits, co-parenting, and child support; domestic partnerships' benefits are substantially less. Civil unions afford benefits very similar to those who are married, while the benefits of domestic partnerships are far fewer.

Civil Union Rights

One way that civil unions differ from marriage is that they are recognized solely at the state level and not the federal level. In 2015, the United States legalized same-sex marriage; at that time, many who were in civil unions converted their relationships to marriage. Some of the rights provided by civil unions include:

  • State taxes can be filed jointly
  • Employment benefits. Partners in civil unions can be covered by the other's health insurance and other employment benefits and are protected under the Family Leave Medical Act (FMLA).
  • Spousal privilege. Partners (spouses) in civil unions cannot be forced to testify against one another in court
  • Co-ownership of property. As in marriage, spouses in civil unions can jointly own property; should one spouse pass away, the other may have the right of survivorship
  • Partners in civil unions can enter into pre-marital and post-marital agreements
  • Just as with married couples, partners in civil unions can jointly adopt or foster a child or children
  • In documents that are legally binding, civil union partners are regarded as immediate family members
  • Alimony can be sought in the event the civil union is terminated
  • Joint parental rights
  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Probate laws as they relate to interstate, wills, trusts, and estates

According to the Colorado Civil Union Act, a civil union partner may be automatically designated as a beneficiary to retirement; a partner may also inherit the property of the other partner upon death, without a written will. Those who need additional information may want to consider contacting Johnson Law Group.

Civil Unions and the Federal Government

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is one of the primary reasons that civil unions are not recognized on the federal level. Because of this, partners in civil unions may not receive each other's social security, retirement pensions, survivor, or other federal benefits. This includes federal income tax filing status and any federal tax-related matter. Under federal law, partners of civil unions whether same-sex or opposite-sex are not entitled to any federal benefits. States may attempt to provide legal protections for pensions, Medicaid, or other tax/public benefits, but it is very difficult for couples in a civil union when it comes to protections performed jointly at the state/federal level. The Social Security Administration encourages those in a civil union to apply for benefits but does not guarantee eligibility.

Merging a Civil Union into a Marriage

Couples in a civil union often decide they want to merge the union into a marriage. The steps required are very similar to those listed above for entering a civil union. It is not necessary to dissolve the civil union status prior to the marriage when the marriage will include the same partners.

  • Apply for a marriage license with the county clerk and recorder
  • A clergy member, religious official, judge, or tribe official should solemnize the marriage within 30 days (prior to the expiration of the license)
  • The individual performing the marriage must complete the certificate and send it to the county clerk and recorder
  • The clerk must receive the completed marriage certificate within 60 days of the marriage ceremony

Terminating a Civil Union

The laws and legal proceedings that apply to those in a civil union who wish to terminate the union are basically the same as those who are married and divorced. Some of the responsibilities and proceedings include:

Parenting time and child custody

  • Alimony (spousal support)
  • Child support
  • Legal separation
  • Dissolution of the civil union
  • Fair division of property attained over the course of the civil union

The process followed in dissolving a civil union in Colorado is the same as that with divorce. In order to terminate a civil union, one partner must have resided in the state for 90 days prior to termination. When a couple who enters a civil union in one state leaves that state, terminating the civil union can be extremely difficult in terms of legal proceedings and the laws governing another state. Only five states in the country recognize civil unions at the current time.

Consider Contacting Johnson Law Group Today

Many same- and opposite-sex couples have questions about civil unions, their legal rights and protections, benefits, matters involving children, and more. “What is a civil union in Colorado” is a question we hear often, especially given the fact that this type of relationship status is rare in the United States today. Those with questions or who need more information are invited to contact Johnson Law Group now at (720) 463-4333 or text (720)-730-4558.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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