Illinois high court rules on unmarried domestic relationships

So much has changed in the past 35 years, but the Illinois Supreme Court proudly bucks the trends and fashions, standing firm on common law marriage. More than three decades have passed since the state’s high court said in 1979 that it would uphold state policy and law that discourages cohabitation between unmarried partners.

The court recently weighed in on cohabitation again, ruling that unmarried partners still have no right in Illinois to each other’s property. The decision essentially means that those who choose to have long-term relationships outside of marriage should not expect to have the legal benefits of marriage or divorce when those relationships end.

In the recent case, the court had to consider the request of a Cook County judge who wanted part ownership of her former partner’s medical practice following the end of their unmarried domestic relationship. The court rejected the request, stating that Illinois refuses “to grant benefits and protections … to those who do not participate in the institution of marriage.”

An attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said she was “shocked” by the ruling that she considers “a devastating setback for unmarried couples.”

The Cook County judge had lived with her partner, a successful doctor, since 1981. Together, they raised three kids, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

The couple in this case is affluent and same-sex, while the majority of unmarried couples that might be affected are straight and will have few substantial possessions other than a house, said a Chicago divorce lawyer. In some of those cases, the person with title to the house will essentially have everything while his or her partner will have nothing.

Those facing the end of a long-term domestic relationship that includes children or property can discuss their rights and interests with a Peoria family law attorney.

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