civil unions

Robin Lynch Nardone

Hi there,Robin Lynch Nardone of Burns & Levinson

Yesterday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided to treat Civil Unions like marriage.  My colleague, Robin Lynch Nardone has some thoughts on this.



A civil union may not be the same as a marriage, but in the eyes of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, it is.  The SJC has ruled that a Vermont civil union is the equivalent of a marriage in Massachusetts.

The SJC was asked to rule on the question of whether or not a civil union must be dissolved before a party to that civil union can enter into a valid marriage in Massachusetts.  Todd Warnken entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2003 and then entered into a marriage with Richard Elia in Massachusetts in 2005.  Mr. Warnken had not taken any steps to legally end his civil union before marrying Mr. Elia in Massachusetts.  When Mr. Warnken filed for divorce in Massachusetts in 2009, Mr. Elia, having learned of the civil union, moved to dismiss the complaint for divorce on the grounds that the marriage was void under Massachusetts law.  In Massachusetts, polygamy (having more than one spouse at the same time) is illegal.  A marriage is not valid … Keep reading

Hi there,

Since last week I have been thinking about the legal implications of the gay marriage decision in Vermont and found that it raises more questions than I had initially considered.  These relate specifically to the impact of marriage on a state which allowed civil unions.  This raises the issue of will the civil union be deemed a marriage thus increasing the length of the marriage and having impact upon divorce on all sorts of issues from custody thru finances?  There also may be issues because if the state now treats civil unions as marriages then if one party to the civil union marries someone else without dissolving the civil union, is that bigamy?

Clearly this will be very complex and interesting as it unfolds.


Nancy… Keep reading