How to Dissolve a Civil Union

Even though civil union is not marriage in the strictest sense, it can be complicated to extricate yourself from if the relationship sours or ends. Here are some tips than can speed up the "divorce" procedure.


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    Know the law in your state and jurisdiction. The list of jurisdictions allowing same-sex unions are the District of Columbia, Maine, New Jersey, Washington State, Hawaii(which they call "Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationships")Vermont, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Oregon. Massachusetts is the only state that offers same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2004 in Massachusetts, and on August 31, 2007 in Iowa. Until further court review, Iowa does not permit same sex marriage.
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    Visit the local town clerk or office where the original certificate for civil union was submitted and ask for a divorce certificate. Online applications can be found also.
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    Choose your grounds for dissolution. There are usually two grounds for the dissolution of civil unions, which may vary by local law. They are as follows: (1) the union is irretrievably broken or (2) one of the parties is mentally incompetent.
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    Be sure that both parties are in residence. Both parties must live in the state where the union was established.
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    Get legal representation, preferably an attorney that specializes in family law.
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    Serve your partner with the proper divorce papers. This can be done through your legal representation.
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    Discuss division of property, financial obligations and assets with your partner. Try to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, but understand both legal parties may need to be involved. The final decision will be made by the court.
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    Work out a custody agreement. If you and your partner have adopted or natural-birth children, discuss where the child will reside and an appropriate visitation schedule. Legal parties may need to be involved. The final decision will be made by the court. The Alliance Defense Fund can be of help especially if children are involved.
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    Be prepared for a difficult road. Often the dissolution of civil unions involves complex situations and facts that can influence the courts decision about financial responsibilities, property, assets and children.


  • Accept that your civil union is over and proceed with your own life. The best thing you can do for yourself is to move ahead with your life and find happiness.
  • When you file for divorce the division of property will be determined by the laws of your state. If you are in an equitable distribution state, then property that is not in both names will be divided by number of years of the marriage, and what each has contributed. In a community property state it is divided 50 - 50.
  • Don't default on the court appearances - you will be sorry in the future. You may be tempted to say, "I don't care. Let him/her have everything." Don't give in to this. Suck up your feelings and regrets and pain and anger, and whatever else you are carrying due to the breakup, and get yourself to court so that your ex doesn't wind up getting everything by default. You'll be glad you did when you're able to think more clearly.
  • Ask creditors to close any joint accounts and provide you with written confirmation. Try to reopen these as individual accounts, but regardless of whether your are able to or not, keep the records showing that you have either closed the joint account (clearly showing the date) or are in the process. If your ex-spouse handles a joint account irresponsibly, your credit record may suffer.
  • When you are served with a motion for divorce, you must get a lawyer. Do not think that if you do not answer these papers or cooperate that your spouse will not be able to divorce you. In fact, your spouse may be able to not only get a divorce, but everything that they ask for. Find a lawyer of your own and counter file.


  • When your divorce is final and assets have been legally divided, change names on house deeds, stocks and bonds, and car titles, as necessary. Change beneficiaries on investments, retirement plans, life insurance policies, and savings accounts. Update your will. Check your credit report to make sure your ex-spouse hasn't incurred debts in your name since your divorce or separation.

Things You'll Need

  • Family Attorney
  • Divorce Certificate

Article Info

Categories: Divorce