Civil Union Vs Marriage
Family Law

Civil Union Vs Marriage – What Is The Difference?

| July 6, 2021 | Last Updated on: September 29, 2023

Civil union vs marriage has been a long-debated topic. Couples of the opposite sex have been permitted to form civil partnerships for a long time. Couples of opposite and same-sex in many areas of the world can now choose between a civil union and marriage when they legalize their relationship as a result of this historic shift.

This is a positive step forward in legalizing the many ways in which people choose to spend their lives in today’s society. The distinction between marriage and civil partnership is more than simply whether you declare your commitment in a church or a registered office. When it comes to administrative elements of civil partnerships, they vary from marriage in a number of ways.

What Is Marriage?

What Is Marriage?

Before we get into the tussle of civil union vs marriage, you must first learn the basics. People married for a variety of reasons, including love and commitment. Marriage, on the other hand, is a legal status that comes with privileges and obligations. Marriage creates a legal bond between you and your domestic partner. 

It’s a universally acknowledged bond that cuts beyond nations, regions, and faiths. Couples in the United States are given a paper marriage license, which allows them to share finances, benefits, and insurance, as well as other types of concessions. 

What Is Civil Union?

What Is Civil Union?

A civil union is a marriage-like arrangement that is legal in some jurisdictions but differs from marriage in key ways. It was developed to provide same-sex couples a means to publicly pledge to one other without actually marrying them. Following the legalization of same-sex marriage, some states changed all civil unions to marriages. Civil partnerships were established in 2005 to give same-sex couples legal status and protection. Since then, the legislation has evolved to allow weddings between partners of the same gender. 

This produced an odd scenario in which same-sex couples could marry or form a civil union, while opposite-sex couples could only marry. There are several reasons why couples decide not to marry. Those who have previously been married may have personal or religious reasons for not repeating the procedure, while others may object to the patriarchal or religious connections of a traditional marriage and marriage ceremony.

Civil Union Vs Marriage – What Are The Rights Included In A Marriage?

At the federal level, marriages provide couples with a variety of protections and benefits. These are some of them: 

1. Immigration

Individuals who are married or engaged can file visa applications for their non-citizen spouse or fiancé.

2. Social Security

When evaluating eligibility for benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not promise that all civil unions will be recognized, but it does accept all marriages. Regardless of whether you are married or in a civil union, the SSA encourages you to apply for benefits.

3. Taxes

You can submit your federal taxes together.

4. Veterans

Veterans’ surviving spouses may be eligible for health insurance, educational aid, and house loan programs, among other things.

Civil Union Vs Marriage – What Are The Rights Included In A Civil Union?

Civil unions generally have the same rights as marriages in jurisdictions where they are still granted or recognized. These are the most common:

1. Estate Planning

When your spouse passes away, you can inherit all of their assets tax-free.

2. Employment

Your spouse’s employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance, may cover you. If your spouse passes away, you are entitled to bereavement leave.

3. Healthcare

If your spouse is unwell, you may have the right to make medical choices for them and have unrestricted visitation privileges.

4. Parental Rights

Your children may have shared parental rights with your spouse.

5. Property

If one spouse dies, you can co-own property as joint owners and enjoy the right of survivorship.

6. Separation

If your civil partnership is dissolved, you can file for alimony.

7. Spousal Privilege

You cannot be compelled to testify in court against your spouse.

8. Taxes

You can file your state taxes as a couple.

Civil Union Vs Marriage – What Is The Difference?

Here we are finally going to solve the war of marriage vs civil union. The primary distinctions between weddings and civil unions are how other states and the federal government treat them. While civil partnerships do not have the same conventional or religious implications as marriage, the rights and duties are almost equal.

This applies not only to the financial provisions available following separation but also to inheritance regulations and any tax entitlements. Marriage law is decided by the states, but it has federal consequences. Spouses have access to each other’s Social Security and Medicaid benefits and can file taxes jointly. 

Civil unions, on the other hand, aren’t legally recognized unless they’ve been converted to weddings. As a result, couples in civil unions are not eligible for Social Security payments through their partners. Civil union partners of foreign nationals are not eligible for federal employee benefits, and civil union partners of federal employees are not eligible to file family-based migration appeals. 

You may now get a marriage license in any state and become eligible for benefits if you’re in a same-sex civil union. Furthermore, because state laws govern marriage, each state has the authority to select which out-of-state weddings and unions it will recognize. All states, however, must accept same-sex marriages. This explains all about the differences between civil union vs marriage. 

The Similarities Between Civil Union Vs Marriage

There are a number of rights held by civil partners that are comparable to those enjoyed by married couples. They have the same property rights, pension benefits, and parental responsibility for each other’s children. 

They also enjoy the same privileges as married couples in hospitals and are not subject to inheritance tax. There are more parallels than differences between marriage and civil partnership in terms of laws that may have an influence on a couple’s normal day-to-day existence. The following are some of the advantages of civil unions:

  • The right to inherit from your spouse automatically when he or she dies, also known as Inheritance rights;
  • Bereavement leave is used to mourn the loss of a spouse.
  • You have the right to your spouse’s employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance;
  • Medical practitioners automatically designate you as a relative;
  • If you live in a community property state, you have joint ownership and community property rights;
  • State tax returns filed jointly.
  • Children born to or adopted by the couple have joint parental rights.
  • You have the option of refusing to testify against your civil union spouse.
  • After a civil partnership dissolves, you have the right to seek financial assistance or alimony.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the frequently asked questions related to civil union vs marriage mentioned below:

1. What’s the difference between a civil union and marriage?

A civil union is a legal partnership that grants many of the same rights and benefits as marriage, but it’s not called marriage. Marriage is a legally recognized union with cultural and social significance.

2. Do civil unions offer the same legal rights as marriage?

In many places, civil unions provide similar legal rights as marriage, such as inheritance, healthcare decisions, and tax benefits. However, the specifics can vary by location, so it’s essential to check your local laws.

3. Can same-sex couples get married now?

Yes! In most countries, same-sex couples can legally marry. Many places have recognized that love is love, and marriage equality is now the norm in many parts of the world.

4. Are civil unions for same-sex couples only?

No, civil unions are not limited to same-sex couples. They are available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry but want legal recognition of their partnership.

5. Can you convert a civil union into a marriage?

In many places, yes! Some jurisdictions allow couples with civil unions to convert them into marriages if they wish to do so. It’s often a simple legal process.

6. What’s the advantage of choosing marriage over a civil union?

Marriage typically carries greater social recognition and may offer additional federal and state benefits, such as immigration rights and Social Security benefits. It also simplifies issues like changing your last name.

7. Can you have a wedding ceremony for a civil union?

Absolutely! Many couples who opt for a civil union still have wedding ceremonies and celebrations. The key difference is that the legal contract is a civil union, not a marriage.

8. Is divorce different for civil unions compared to marriages?

The process of dissolving a civil union is often similar to divorce. You may need to go through legal proceedings, including division of property and child custody arrangements.

9. Can civil unions be recognized in other countries?

Recognition of civil unions in other countries varies. It’s essential to research the specific laws and agreements between countries if you plan to move or travel with your civil union.

10. Do civil unions affect religious beliefs or ceremonies?

No, civil unions are separate from religious beliefs and ceremonies. They are purely a legal arrangement. If you want a religious marriage, you’ll need to follow your faith’s traditions in addition to obtaining a civil union or marriage license.

Remember, the decision between a civil union and marriage depends on your personal preferences and legal considerations. It’s crucial to consult with legal experts and understand the laws in your jurisdiction to make the best choice for your situation.

Final Thoughts

Litigation over marriages, civil unions, and relationship-related benefits is becoming more prevalent. Because of the distinctions mentioned above, it’s crucial to think about which choice is ideal for your new family.

A prenuptial agreement is the only way to safeguard yourself and your assets before entering into a marriage or civil union, even if it isn’t the most romantic item on the wedding preparation list.

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nilanjana basu
nilanjana basu

Nilanjana is a lawyer with a flair for writing. She has a certification in American Laws from Penn Law (Pennsylvania University). Along with this, she has been known to write legal articles that allow the audience to know about American laws and regulations at ease.


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