Understanding Civil Unions in New Jersey
Civil unions in New Jersey provide legal recognition to couples who choose to unite in a partnership that offers many of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. The process for establishing a civil union in New Jersey is designed to be accessible while ensuring that all legal requirements are met.
Eligibility Criteria for a Civil Union
To enter into a civil union in New Jersey, both parties must meet specific eligibility criteria. They must be of the same sex or opposite sex, at least 18 years old, and not in a marriage or another civil union or domestic partnership. Additionally, they cannot be closely related by blood or affinity.
Steps to Establish a Civil Union in New Jersey
- Filling Out the Application: Couples wishing to establish a civil union must first fill out a civil union application form. This can be obtained from any Registrar of Vital Statistics within the state.
- Paying the Fee: A fee is required when submitting the application. This fee varies by municipality, so it is essential to check with the local Registrar's office.
- Waiting Period: There is a 72-hour waiting period from the time the application is filed until the civil union license is issued.
- Civil Union Ceremony: After obtaining the license, a ceremony can be conducted by an authorized individual such as a judge, mayor, or member of the clergy. The ceremony does not need to follow any particular format but must include both parties' consent to enter into the civil union.
- Certification and Filing: The individual who performs the ceremony must sign and certify the license and return it to the Registrar's office where it was issued. This step finalizes the legal documentation for the civil union.
Legal Rights Afforded by Civil Unions
A civil union in New Jersey allows couples many of the same state-level legal rights as marriage, including property rights, spousal support, and inheritance rights. However, federally, civil unions do not provide all the benefits that marriage does, which was a point of contention leading to significant legal battles such as the landmark United States v. Windsor case in 2013.
Dissolving a Civil Union in New Jersey
If partners decide to dissolve their civil union, they must undergo a process similar to divorce. This includes equitable distribution of property, alimony considerations, and if applicable, child custody and support arrangements.