Dissolution of Civil Unions in New Jersey

A civil union sometimes referred to as a domestic partnership, is a marriage alternative for same-sex partners, or partners who seek to have certain benefits of a marriage, but without the full process of marriage. With the national legalization of same-sex marriage in June of 2015, civil unions have become less common, however, some partners may still choose to enter into a civil union for their own reasoning unique to their relationship. Some may find, however, that either the domestic partnership does not work as intended, or that they would rather enter into a marriage. In either case, the couple must go to the court to file for a dissolution of the civil union.

Dissolving A Civil Union

In New Jersey law, a civil union is viewed as equal to a marriage, and as such, will undergo relatively the same process as New Jersey divorce. This means that the residency requirements remain the same as well. One of the partners must have lived in New Jersey for at least a year. Partners will also be referred to as "plaintiff" and "defendant" depending who initiates the filing. There is one important difference between the two types of unions. A civil union is not the same as a marriage, and 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:

  • Adultery: If one of the partners exhibits infidelity, the grounds for adultery will have been met and the proceedings can begin.
  • Extreme cruelty: Extreme cruelty is a broad category, but the most common example of this is when one partner is abusive in any way towards the other, especially in cases of domestic violence.
  • Separation: If partners remain separated for over 18 months time, then they may begin the process for dissolving their civil union.
  • Commitment to a mental health institution: If one of the partners in the civil union has remained committed to a mental health institution for over 24 months time, then the other partner may file for a dissolution.
  • Substance abuse: If one partner is suffering from addiction to alcohol or a narcotic substance for a period of over 12 months, the other partner may file for a dissolution.
  • Imprisonment: If a partner in a civil union is imprisoned for a period of time over 18 months, their counterpart may file for a dissolution in response.

Once the grounds are met, then the process for dissolution can begin. The partners will split their assets, and resolve any issues that pertain to custody and support, just like they would in a divorce. New Jersey may also allow conversion of civil unions into full marriages, but a new marriage cannot be entered into without the dissolution of the civil union.

If you or a loved one is seeking the dissolution of a civil union or is involved in other matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.

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