Over the last several years, same-sex marriage and civil unions have been among the most discussed family law topics across the nation. Although Colorado doesn’t allow same-sex marriages, as of May 1 the state will recognize civil unions. This arrangement functions similarly to a marriage in that it provides legal protections to parents and children.

Much like a married person with children, a person with children in a civil union may become responsible for child support payments in the event that their legal relationship ends. Typically, the parent with custody receives financial support to help raise their children when they part ways with the other parent. Legalizing civil unions will make child support enforcement available to parents who need it.

One important aspect of the law worth noting is that same-sex couples who have a legally recognized marriage or civil union in another state will automatically be entered into a civil union in Colorado. For many, this may be convenient, but it could also take some individuals by surprise. Now that the civil union law provides some legal recognition to families headed by same-sex parents, a child support order could be enforced if couples formally end their relationship. Failure to make monthly support payments can result in serious legal consequences.

For couples who seek a civil union, it will be important to understand exactly what the new form of legal recognition means. Although people who are just making the decision to get a civil union are probably not thinking about ending their relationship in the near future, it is important to recognize that the law provides an important legal framework to provide for children if their parents are no longer together.

Source: Coloradoan.com, “Civil union legal primer holds surprises for some couples,” Patrick Malone, April 24, 2013