Legal Victory for Stepparents in Civil Union in Illinois

There was a unanimous ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on September 24, 2020, that parents in a civil union have the same rights as stepparents as married individuals and that those rights will continue after the death of their spouse.

Stepparent Rights in a Civil Union

Stepparent Visitation and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

  1. Whether a party to a civil union has standing to request visitation with her deceased partner’s child as a stepparent, and
  2. Whether that party has legal standing to request parental responsibilities.

Does Someone in a Civil Union with a Parent Qualify as a Stepparent?

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide, Illinois passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act to provide most of the rights of marriage to couples who were not legally married. Set forth in Section 20 in 750 ILCS 75, the law states:

“A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statue, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.”

The Illinois Supreme Court found that “in enacting the Civil Union Act, the General Assembly intended to create an alternative to marriage that was equal in all respects,” Justice Rita Garman wrote for the court. “This intent was not limited to partners’ rights as to each other.”

The case will now go back to the circuit court for the judge to decide how much visitation and parental responsibility Kris will have.

Seek Advice from a Chicago Family Law Attorney About Stepparent Visitation and Civil Unions


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