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NJ Civil Union Dissolution & Domestic Partnership Termination

Did you know that NJ Civil Union Dissolution and NJ Domestic Partnership Termination are both very much like NJ Divorce in terms of the strategic, results-directed decisions that need to be made? Trust the experts. This rapidly evolving area of NJ Family Law is in a class by itself. There are very few same-sex specific court decisions to assist NJ Family Law Attorneys in determining how the NJ Family Courts will view and decide important issues concerning alimony, equitable distribution of property and the allocation of debts.

Fortunately, to quote Firm Founder Curtis J. Romanowski in an annual GLBT Update – sponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education ( NJICLE ), in cooperation with the NJSBA Family Law Section and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association ( NJSBA LGBT Rights Section ): “What an opportunity! Just think about it… All of us will have the unprecedented chance to apply our highly-evolved New Jersey family case law – where appropriate – to an entirely new first generation of same-sex cases. We will have the chance to explore the richness of cases like Painter all over again. We are truly privileged and I am personally quite excited about the prospect and promise of such a challenge.”

NJ Civil Unions

On October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided, in the case of Lewis v. Harris, that same-sex couples in New Jersey must be granted all the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex married couples. However, the Court stopped short of specifically directing the Garden State to allow same-sex marriage, leaving the New Jersey Legislature to decide how best to address the issue. Nearly two months later, the New Jersey Legislature responded to the Lewis directive by enacting the New Jersey Civil Union Act on December 21, 2006; effective February 19, 2007.

This law granted NJ same-sex couples the same basic rights to enter into legally recognized relationships as married heterosexual couples. What’s more, the New Jersey Civil Union Act (Chapter 103, P.L. 2006) further amended the Domestic Partnership Act so that only couples 62 years of age or older (including opposite-sex or same-sex couples) would be permitted to enter into new domestic partnerships in New Jersey. Any current domestic partnerships will remain intact, unless the partners pursue dissolution or enter into a civil union, with either choice resulting in the automatic termination the domestic partnership.

NJ Domestic Partnerships

The New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act (Chapter 246, P.L. 2003) became effective on July 10, 2004. The Act provides limited rights to NJ Domestic Partners, including same-sex partners, who file an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with the State of New Jersey. Although Certified Domestic Partners in New Jersey assume joint responsibility for each other’s basic living expenses and common welfare during the legal relationship, they do not automatically share assets and debts acquired during the relationship and have no rights to NJ alimony upon dissolution/termination. Certified Domestic Partners in New Jersey have the same rights under NJ state law as married partners, as relate to tax treatment, visitation and decision-making in health care settings, health and pension benefits from state employers, and intestate succession (inheriting without a will).

Termination of a New Jersey Domestic Partnership

New Jersey began recognizing registered domestic partnerships with limited rights in 2004 and civil unions in 2007 and then same-sex marriage in 2013. Couples ending a civil union or domestic partnership follow essentially the same process as a New Jersey divorce, including filing a complaint for dissolution and a case information statement, participating in case management conferences, and sometimes engaging in formal discovery.

Grounds for Dissolution / Termination – NJ Civil Unions & NJ Domestic Partnerships

Can a partner filing a Complaint for Dissolution of an NJ Civil Union or Termination of an NJ Domestic Partnership use most of the same grounds available for NJ Divorce? The answer is Yes. Commonly plead grounds include adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty and separation. Other grounds arise from time to time as well, but these are far less common. But did you know that there is still one ground for NJ Divorce that cannot be alleged in a NJ Civil Union Dissolution or NJ Domestic Partnership Termination case? The one and only exception is irreconcilable differences. Although irreconcilable differences is an acceptable ground in a NJ Divorce, it is not one of the permissible grounds for terminating a NJ Civil Union or NJ Domestic Partnership. This will likely change in the future.

Property Division and Alimony – NJ Civil Unions vs. New Jersey Domestic Partnerships

NJ Domestic Partnership do not result in the same kinds of joint property rights or shared responsibility for debts as a New Jersey marriage or a civil union does. For this reason, alimony and equitable distribution are not applicable to partners ending a domestic partnership. On the other hand, for partners ending a civil union in New Jersey, the laws governing NJ Alimony and NJ Equitable Distribution of property are the same as those applicable to NJ Divorce.

Notably, some NJ same-sex legal relationship issues involving financial and property issues are related to federal taxes and benefits. Parties to NJ Same-Sex Marriages, NJ Civil Unions and NJ Domestic Partnerships are not treated as married for federal tax purposes and are therefore ineligible for federal benefits based upon marriage, such as derivative social security benefits.

And there is more…

Food for Thought. Suppose you and your partner lived together as a committed couple for many years and then entered into a NJ Same-Sex Marriage or NJ Civil Union. Let’s say that you did so at your earliest opportunity. Intriguing question: Should the NJ Family Court treat your relationship the same way it would treat a long-term marriage for purposes of NJ Alimony and NJ Equitable Distribution of property? The law is still evolving in this area and it presents a novel opportunity to advocate in your favor.

As Firm Founder Curtis J. Romanowski stated in an annual GLBT Update – sponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education ( NJICLE ), in cooperation with the NJSBA Family Law Section and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association ( NJSBA LGBT Rights Section ): “This is one of the most exciting issues out there. Issues of fact abound. Judicial discretion promises to be sweeping at the Trial Court level. Issues of credibility and intent will be focal points, as will be collateral proofs. We are living in a Brave New World.”

Confidence Spoken Here

You can rest assured that our accomplished and influential New Jersey Same-Sex Marriage, NJ Civil Union and NJ Domestic Partnership Law Firm will develop terrific strategies, negotiate brilliantly and advance highly informed, inspired arguments to support your results-targeted NJ Family Law objectives.

It takes talent, and we’ve got it. Forget everything you’ve heard about New Jersey Family Law from unreliable sources and enjoy the confidence and trust-based comfort that an esteemed NJ Family Law Firm can provide.

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