Colorado recently enacted the Colorado Civil Union Act, which was enacted with an effective date of July 1, 2013. A civil union is defined under the new Colorado law to be a relationship that two adult persons (regardless of their gender) can legally have with one another, as long as they are single and not part of any existing civil union. Civil unions are dissolved by a dissolution process, similar to that of a dissolution of marriage, but a lot of legal questions still remain to be answered for this process.
A civil union affords the parties similar rights and responsibilities to those of a married couple. Also, the law in Colorado that outlines the procedures and rights applicable to divorcing parties, which now, in most part, also applies to parties seeking to dissolve a civil union.
The new law in Colorado allows parties seeking to dissolve a civil union to have the same access to the court system to divide property and allocate parental responsibilities, as are applied in a dissolution of marriage action. Matters such as division of property, division of debts, parenting time, decision making over minor children, child support and maintenance are issues which can be resolved by the Colorado courts, similar to a divorce. Of course, many jurisdictions will continue to require mediation prior to a court hearing, as has been the requirement in dissolution of marriage actions, at least in most of the Denver Front Range counties.
The new laws also make the adoption process much easier for non-parent parties in a civil union. Laws existed in Colorado for a “second parent adoption” which allowed both opposite-sex but unmarried and same-sex couples to legally adopt children, but the waters have been muddy prior to the civil union law. Also, it will allow, in some cases, a child born to one of the parties during the term of the civil union to become the legal child of both parties without having to undergo the adoption process, as was the presumption of children born during a marriage.
For a full text of the Colorado Civil Union Act, please click on the following link: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2013a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/35CE5FDC5F040FF487257A8C0050715D?open&file=011_enr.pdf
Effective May 1, 2013, among other rights, benefits and protections, the Colorado Civil Union Act provides that parties to a civil union in Colorado are granted the following:
• Dependent coverage under health insurance policies for plans issued, delivered, or renewed on or after January 1, 2014;
• Dependent coverage under life insurance for plans issued, delivered, or renewed on or after January 1, 2014;
• Prohibitions against discrimination based upon spousal status;
• Survivor benefits under and inclusion in workers’ compensation laws;
• The right of a partner in a civil union to be treated as a family member or as a spouse under the “Colorado Employment Security Act” for purposes of unemployment benefits;
• Eligibility for family leave benefits;
• The ability to insure a party to a civil union under group benefit plans for state employees;
• The ability to designate a party to a civil union as a beneficiary under the state public employees retirement SB13-01 system;
• Survivor benefits under local government firefighter and police pensions;
• Protections and coverage under domestic abuse and domestic violence laws; and
• The ability to file a claim based on wrongful death, emotional distress, loss of consortium, dram shop, or other laws, whether common law or statutory, related to or dependent upon spousal status.
If you require have questions regarding a Colorado civil union, dissolution of a civil union, annulments of civil unions, or matters arising out of a civil union, our seasoned team of family law lawyers, estate planning lawyers, and employment law lawyers are here to help. Please call us at 303-688-3045 for a free telephone consultation.