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Civil Unions Are not Automatically Converted to Marriages In NJ

Civil Unions Are not Automatically Converted to Marriages In NJ

As a result of all of the recent and swift changes in New Jersey regarding same-sex marriage, many gay and lesbian couples who previously joined their lives in a civil union, are wondering if their civil unions will be automatically converted to marriages under New Jersey laws. Unfortunately, the answer is, no. New Jersey civil unions will not be automatically converted into state-sanctioned marriages. The fact that civil unions do not automatically convert to legal marriages can have significant consequences on the legal status of same-sex spouses throughout the state. This past summer, the United States Supreme Court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act, effectively allowing same-sex couples, who were legally married in the states where they lived, to receive federal benefits as a married couple. The United States Supreme Court specified that civil unions are not recognized by the federal government and therefore do not entitle couples to receive federal benefits under the ruling. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson held last month that same-sex couples are not afforded equal protection under the laws of New Jersey because they are not afforded the same privileges and rights as heterosexual married couples. Quickly thereafter, as of October 21, 2013, New Jersey began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples offering the opportunity to obtain all the protections and rights afforded under the laws pertaining to heterosexual couples who choose to marry. The Superior Court’s ruling offered no direction pertaining to the status or validity of same-sex civil unions or whether they would be converted to marriages by operation of law. Therefore, couples in viable civil unions seeking the status of married couples must still obtain a marriage license and participate in a formal ceremony to obtain the state and federal benefits afforded to legally married spouses. The benefits to members of the LGBT community already in civil unions who now enter formal marriages include tax benefits, social security benefits, and immigration rights, they must file to obtain a marriage license. If you have questions regarding the status of a civil union in New Jersey, the implications and validity of any existing support or promissory agreements prepared between yourself and your spouse or other matters which may be affected by the approval of marriages by the NJ courts you should consult you consult with an attorney experienced in both civil union law and traditional family law to ensure you are protected. For more information about same-sex civil union, same-sex relationship dissolution, adoption, alimony, child support, custody or other Family Law matters in New Jersey visit NJCivilUnionLaw.com and HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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