Nontraditional Family

What Are the Options for Same-Sex Couples to Formalize Their Relationship in the State of New Jersey?

Presently, if you are a same-sex couple you may marry each other in New Jersey. On September 27, 2013, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled in the case of Garden State Equality v. Dow that not allowing same-sex couples the option to marry deprived couples of the right to share in the federal benefits guaranteed in a Supreme Court decision of United States v. Windsor.

As a result of Garden State Equality v. Dow, same-sex couples have more options with regard to the structure of their union. Same-sex couples may now choose to memorialize their relationship in a civil union, convert or register their existing civil union into a marriage; enter into a domestic partnership, or enter into the marital contract and marry each other. All of these processes have distinct requirements and procedures in the event the relationship breaks down. Although the choice to marry seems immediately appealing because of the access to certain benefits, speaking with an experienced matrimonial attorney is beneficial in order to acquire a full understanding of the marital contract before you make any decision. (Heterosexual couples can benefit from this also, of course.) There is also the option of having an attorney prepare a prenuptial agreement well before your marriage date and an experienced matrimonial attorney can explain the purpose of such a legal document.

Our family law and matrimonial attorneys at Musulin Law Firm are able to draft your prenuptial agreement, pre-civil union agreement or pre-domestic partnership agreement, if that is your objective. The attorneys at Musulin Law Firm will take the time to advise you how to legally prepare if you want to introduce children to your relationship, also.

What Is a Civil Union?

The New Jersey Civil Union Act1 went into effect on Feb. 19, 2007. A civil union, as defined under the law, is a "legally recognized union of two eligible individuals of the same sex." 1 Entering into a civil union involves a license application, mandatory waiting period and ceremony, much like a marriage. However, this is not a called a marriage license but a civil union license.

How Does a Domestic Partnership Compare to a Civil Union?

Domestic partnerships were available to same-sex couples prior to civil unions; this formal relationship, however, is not limited to same-sex couples. Under the New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act,2 which went into effect on July 10, 2004, unrelated members of the opposite sex over the age of 62 may also meet the eligibility requirements to enter into a domestic partnership. Domestic partnerships generally involve joint responsibility for each other's welfare and a caring, though not necessarily romantic, relationship. The process of entering into a domestic partnership involves the completion and filing of an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership in which both parties attest they meet the eligibility requirements.

1N.J.S.A. 37:1-29

2N.J.S.A. 26:8A-1, et. seq.

Contact us online or call our office at 609-267-0070. Christopher Musulin is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the author of numerous booklets and articles. Our law firm also handles divorces, family law matters, pre-civil union agreements or civil union dissolutions, pre-domestic partnership agreements or domestic partnership terminations, and prenuptial agreements as well as post-nuptial agreements.

The Dissolution of a Civil Union or a Domestic Partnership

Dissolving a civil union is virtually the same as obtaining a divorce. It involves the filing of a Complaint, followed by the exchange of information and negotiating or litigating a resolution as to important issues such as spousal support (alimony), distribution of assets and debts, child support, and child custody and parenting time when children are involved.

Many people are unaware that terminating a domestic partnership can be equally as involved as dissolving a civil union or marriage. Even though a domestic partnership does not involve a ceremony, the process of terminating the relationship is largely similar to the dissolution of a civil union or marriage.

For those who are experiencing a breakdown of their relationship, we can lead you through the legal process and provide invaluable advice about the personal and financial implications. We are committed to staying educated about new developments in the law and to providing personal attention to the needs of each of our clients and supporting him or her through a challenging time.

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