On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled for the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, citing that state-level bans violated the Due Process and Equal Protections clauses of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. Prior to this ruling, same-sex couples in New Jersey were allowed to enter into a "civil union", which gave them many of the same legal rights and protections as married
couples. While a civil union is not the same thing as marriage, the laws for dissolving either of these partnerships are quite similar. There are, however, some key differences that you should note prior to filing your complaint.
For example, a civil union can be dissolved on the following grounds: adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, addiction and/or habitual drunkenness, imprisonment, institutionalization (mental illness), and separation for at least 18 months. You may have noticed that these grounds do not include "irreconcilable differences". This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be a source of frustration if you're looking to dissolve your union as quickly as possible. Unlike the other grounds, filing under irreconcilable differences is a relatively simple procedure, requiring little more than the divorce complaint and a document known as the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). As long as both spouses agree that the marriage has suffered for at least 6 months, and there are no conflicts over custody, support or property division, a divorce may be granted in as little as 2 months.
With the option of irreconcilable differences, your only choice for a no-fault filing is "separation", which would require you to prove that you and your partner have been living apart for at least 18 months. This should be easy to prove in most cases through documents such as rental agreements, financial statements and tax returns. Another way to speed up the process is by working with a mediator, which would allow you to negotiate the terms of your settlement agreement without going through the courts. Representation form an attorney is not required for mediation, but it's highly recommended that you at least speak to one prior to and during the process. Even if you think you and your partner are in full agreement, the negotiation process may cause either of you to rethink certain terms that may not be in your best interests. Unfortunately, the mediator cannot advise you on these issues since they are required by law to maintain neutrality.
If you are considering a dissolution of civil union in New Jersey, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Depending on your personal situation, there may be numerous legal
complications that you'll need to consider in order to be full compliance with the state's laws. With decades of trial experience in the New Jersey family courts, our lawyers are qualified to help you with all the issues pertaining to your civil union, including custodial rights, domestic support, estate planning and pending adoptions.