In 2014, Illinois legalized same-sex marriage by enacting the Illinois Marriage Fairness Act which provided LGBT couples the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples. The federal government followed suit in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the same rights as opposite-sex couples under both federal and state laws. As a result, all states are now required to recognize same-sex marriages and to issue marriage licenses.
Because the laws are still new, LGBT couples are not always sure of what their rights are in complex family law situations. The experienced and compassionate Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, understand the needs and legal issues of same-sex couples. We believe that all individuals are entitled to quality legal representation to protect their rights and best interests. We offer a free consultation to help with the family law issues that LGBT couples are most likely to face. These include:
Illinois allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions beginning in 2011. If you already have a civil union, you don’t have to convert to a marriage. However, since civil unions may not be recognized by other states and do not receive the same federal rights, obligations and benefits as a marriage, you may wish to convert and have your marriage backdated to when the civil union ceremony was held. Same-sex couples may apply for a marriage license and have a marriage ceremony within 60 days of the issuance of the license.
Before getting married, you may wish to enter into a prenuptial agreement. Wolfe & Stec attorneys can help you with these agreements by addressing potential issues before they become problems and opening lines of communication with your partner in order to strengthen your relationship.
Same-sex marriages or civil unions may terminate the same way as a traditional marriage. Divorce is governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. All divorcing couples need to deal with issues pertaining to division of property, spousal maintenance, child custody and child support.
In dividing property, the courts consider whether property or assets were acquired before marriage, or whether the assets are marital property which was obtained during the marriage.
As in a traditional marriage, spousal support will depend on factors such as the length of the marriage, the income and property owned by the parties, and whether one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent.
LGBT couples share many of the same issues with children as traditional parents, as well as some that are unique to their situations. These include:
On November 15, 2012, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued a new policy stating: “The genders of the ‘intended parents’ will no longer be a meaningful distinction.” According to the policy, same-sex “intended” parents who are not married nor in a civil union will be recorded on the birth record in the same manner as opposite-sex “intended” parents. This means that hospitals now place the names of both the biologic and the non-biologic (non-genetic) same sex “intended” parents on the birth record of the child, provided that all requirements of the Gestational Surrogacy Act are met.
Regardless of your sexual orientation, you may adopt children in Illinois. As with traditional couples, a home study will need to be performed and an adoption petition must be filed with the court. If you are married or in a civil union, you must jointly petition the court for adoption. Both parents will be listed on the child’s new birth certificate.
However, it’s advisable that the non-biological parent should adopt the child, (second-parent adoption), because other states and countries may not recognize the non-biological parent. A second-parent adoption is also advised if you are not married or in a civil union or if the child was born before the marriage or civil union. This helps avoid issues if the marriage dissolves.
Adoption is also advised if you use surrogacy or other reproductive technology. It’s important to have legal agreements with egg and sperm donors to clearly delineate the intentions of all involved and address the issue of the donor’s having contact with your child in the future.
Even the best marriages can have problems, and if something goes wrong and you wind up splitting with your partner, issues of child custody and support are the same as for opposite-sex couples. Illinois law recognizes that it’s better for parents to come to an arrangement regarding parenting time and responsibilities than to have to go to litigation. If both parents agree on how to split and share the different responsibilities, they can enter into a written parenting agreement. If the parents do not agree, the judge will examine the facts of the case, and decide on what is in the best interests of the child.
Whether you are gay or straight, family law issues can stir up many fears and emotions, not to mention the difficulties of dealing with forms and procedures. Fortunately, there is help available, and you may find comfort in knowing a lawyer is on your side. The seasoned Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec handle all LGBT cases with sensitivity, respect, and discretion.
At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time. We always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings, and we work to resolve the issues they are facing in the most effective and efficient manner, putting every ounce of our ability into every case. Our lawyers take the time to understand your goals and concerns and then develop a legal strategy designed to achieve those objectives.
With office locations in Woodridge and Chicago, we represent clients throughout the entire Chicagoland area. Call our DuPage County family law attorneys today at 630-305-0222 to schedule your free initial consultation or contact our team online.