Domestic Partner Benefits in the State of Illinois

By Claire Gillespie - Updated July 26, 2018
Seal of Illinois

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A domestic partnership is not legally recognized in Illinois, however couples who don’t want to get married may enter into a civil union. Only a handful of other states recognize civil unions: Illinois, Hawaii, Colorado and New Jersey. Same-sex marriage was made legal in every U.S. state in 2015, but some couples may still wish to enter into a civil union instead of a marriage. Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can enter into civil unions in Illinois.

Domestic Partnership in Illinois

A domestic partnership is similar to a marriage in many ways, as it is a committed relationship between adults who live together. While domestic partnerships are not legally recognized in Illinois – and there is no such thing as an affidavit of domestic partnership – a couple may refer to each other informally as domestic partners. However, a couple in a domestic partnership in Illinois does not have any of the rights or benefits afforded to married spouses or partners to a civil union.

State Vs. Federal Benefits

Partners who enter into a civil union in Illinois are entitled to the same legal benefits that state law gives married spouses. However, Illinois civil unions are not recognized under federal law, meaning partners to a civil union are entitled to almost none of the benefits that married spouses have, such as the right to file joint federal income tax returns and Social Security survivor benefits if your civil union partner dies. Civil union in Illinois benefits include the right to visit a sick partner in the hospital, dispose of a deceased loved one's remains and make decisions about a loved one's medical care.

Civil Union Employment Benefits

In Illinois, your employer is not required to allow you to enroll your civil union partner in any benefit plans, even if your employer allows other employees to enroll their spouses. However, your employer may choose to permit you to enroll your civil union partner.

Civil Union Tax Benefits

Because civil unions are not recognized under federal law, partners to a civil union are not allowed to file joint federal income tax returns. Additionally, they cannot claim the tax breaks or protections given to married spouses. However, civil union partners have the same right to file joint state income tax returns in Illinois as married spouses.

Civil Union Death Benefits

If you die without a will and you do not have any children, your civil union partner inherits all of your possessions. If you do have children, your partner inherits half of your possessions and the other half gets divided among your children. If you die with a will, your civil union partner has the right to renounce what you leave him in your will and, instead, is entitled to half of your estate if you have no children. If you have children, your partner can renounce what you leave him in your will and he is entitled to one-third of your estate.

Your civil union partner also has a right to certain financial protection while your estate is being settled after your death. He is entitled to a portion of the assets of your estate that an Illinois court deems as a reasonable amount to support him during the first nine months after your death. If you and your civil union partner have children, the court will include additional money to allow your partner to support your children while your estate is being settled for up to nine months after your death.

About the Author

Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.

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