Civil Union Dissolution or Ending a Domestic Partnership
Deciding to end any relationship can be difficult and emotionally overwhelming.
Though all couples ending relationships are contracted by many of the same challenges, resolving the issues in a same-sex divorce, civil union dissolution, or ending a domestic partnership may require special skills and knowledge in interpreting and applying the law and finding practical solutions to matters of alimony or spousal support, child custody, child support or the custody of a pet acquired during the course of the relationship.
Fortunately, New Jersey laws governing divorce, civil union dissolution, and ending a domestic partnership share many similarities. Civil unions are viewed as equal to marriage and will undergo the same divorce process in New Jersey, such as equitable division of assets and child care.
With the early months of the new year signaling the onset of the “divorce season,” many individuals are ready for a fresh start. Those wanting to move on should know that a new serious relationship or marriage cannot be entered into without the dissolution of their current civil union.
If you are considering a dissolution of your civil union or a divorce, you will need an experienced divorce attorney who can help you through this process. The matrimonial attorneys at the Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper, Esq. have the experience you need to get through your same-sex divorce or civil union dissolution, protect your rights, safeguard your assets, and find practical solutions for you and your children’s financial future.
NJ Civil Union Dissolution Residency Requirements Prior to Filing
Same-sex couples married in another state permitting same-sex marriage do not have to remarry in New Jersey for their marriage to be recognized in New Jersey. As long as the out-of-state marriage is consistent with New Jersey laws and public policies, the marriage is considered valid and will be recognized in New Jersey.
In accordance with New Jersey residency requirements, at least one person in the civil union must have lived in New Jersey for at least one year before filing for the civil union’s termination with the court.
Once the residency requirement has been fulfilled, couples ending a civil union or domestic partnership follow the same divorce process as other divorcing couples and must:
- file a complaint about dissolution,
- a case information statement,
- participate in case management conferences, and
- if necessary, engage in formal discovery.
Criteria for Ending a Same-Sex Divorce or Dissolving a Civil Union in NJ
Depending on who initiates the filing, each partner will also be referred to as “plaintiff” and “defendant.” A civil union cannot be dissolved through a no-fault divorce process. Instead, the partner filing for the dissolution must show that one of the following grounds has been met:
- separation for 18 or more consecutive months
- extreme cruelty
- commitment to a mental health facility of over 24 months
- incarceration for 18 or more consecutive months
- substance abuse (habitual drunkenness or drug addiction)
Property Division and Alimony in NJ Civil Union Dissolution Cases
At face value, divorcing couples or those ending a civil union face the same rules governing the equitable distribution of marital property and alimony and spousal support. As such, the terms of a valid prenuptial (or pre-civil union) or postnuptial (or post-civil union) agreement may impact such issues.
However, those within a domestic partnership may not have the same kinds of shared property rights or shared responsibility for debts and or claim for alimony if the relationship ends. Thus, many same-sex domestic partners often enter into cohabitation agreements that can impact post-relationship property rights or partner support.
The law is still evolving related to treating long-term committed same-sex couples who have shared the same home for many years, the same as a long-term marriage for purposes of equitable property division and alimony. It’s quite possible that the judge could see anything solely in the name of one spouse before the marriage and before the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Jersey to be the individual property of that particular spouse and not marital property.
Determining Child Custody, Support, & Parenting time, in Same-Sex Divorces
Child custody and child support laws apply to all parents. Same-sex couples who are raising children together but dissolving their civil union or litigating their divorce should consider what is in the child’s best interest and any adverse impact this may have on them.
Another issue frequently confronted during this process is any adopted children or minors who are the biological child or adopted child of only one partner. Frequently, although a spouse is not biologically related to the child, they have acted as the child’s parent in the family relationship dynamics and may still have some parental rights. This process is made easier if the same-sex couple’s non-biological parent got a second-parent adoption during the marriage. In this context, both spouses are treated as the child’s natural parents and are considered equals in custody disputes.
This is a complex legal area. If you or someone you know is in this situation and doesn’t quite know what to do, it is important to retain a qualified NJ family law attorney experienced with same-sex couples divorces and civil unions. Our attorneys will zealously work to protect your relationship with your child and maximize your parental rights.
Contact an Elizabeth, NJ Same-Sex Divorce Lawyer to Dissolve Your Civil Union
If you are seeking a same-sex divorce, wish to dissolve a civil union or domestic partnership, or are dealing with a child custody matter, The Law Offices of Edward Cooper has the experience you need to guide you through the process and answer all of your questions. It is important to choose an attorney who is a good fit for you and your unique situation and can support you in making positive decisions for yourself and your family during this difficult transition.
Our years of experience in handling family law issues and divorce cases across New Jersey make our firm a great option for your decision. To speak with Edward Cooper today in an initial consultation regarding your divorce or any other Family Law-related issue, contact us online or through our NJ office at (908) 925-9055.