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What is the difference between a civil union and a marriage in Colorado?

When it comes to legal recognition of a couple’s relationship, there are generally two choices to consider – marriage and civil union. In Colorado, couples can choose to either get married or enter into a civil union. However, many people are not aware of the differences between these two options. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between a civil union and marriage in Colorado.

What is a Civil Union?

A civil union is a legally recognized partnership between two people, providing many of the legal benefits and protections of marriage. It was first introduced in Colorado in 2013, when the state passed the Colorado Civil Union Act. Colorado was the 18th state to offer the option of civil unions to same-sex couples.

A civil union is a legal agreement between two individuals of the same or opposite sex. It offers many of the same rights as a marriage, such as:

– Legal recognition of the relationship
– Inheritance rights
– Power of Attorney
– Health care decision-making authority

Despite offering similar benefits and protections as marriage, civil unions are not recognized at the federal level. This means that couples in a civil union cannot receive certain federal benefits that married couples can enjoy, such as Social Security benefits, joint tax returns, and the right to apply for spousal immigration visas.

What is Marriage?

Marriage is a legal and social union between two people, which is usually recognized by the government. It comes with both legal and social rights and responsibilities that are not available to people in any other kind of relationship.

In Colorado, marriage is defined as a relationship between two people of the opposite sex or the same sex. In 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Colorado’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, making it legal for same-sex couples to marry in the state.

Marriage provides a wide range of benefits that are not available in a civil union. For instance, married couples can:

– File joint tax returns
– Inherit each other’s property without paying estate taxes
– Apply for Social Security and veterans benefits
– Make medical decisions on behalf of their spouse in limited medical circumstances

One of the significant differences between marriage and civil union is their legal recognition at the federal level. A couple in marriage is legally entitled to federal benefits and protections that are not available to those in a civil union.

Colorado Law: The Differences Between Civil Union and Marriage

Under Colorado law, marriages and civil unions are different in several ways. Understanding these differences is crucial for couples deciding between these two options. Here are a few differences:

– Legal age: In Colorado, you can get married at 18 years old without consent. In a civil union, you must be at least 18 years old to enter into it without parental consent. If you are between 16 and 18 years old, the State will require the consent of your parents or legal guardians.
– Name change: If you get married in Colorado, you can change your name by obtaining a Marriage Certificate. In a civil union, you cannot change your name unless you file a separate legal petition for a name change.
– Federal benefits: As mentioned earlier, marriages are recognized at the federal level, and the federal government provides several benefits to married couples that are unavailable to those in a civil union.
– Separation: In Colorado, the legal process to end a marriage is a divorce. In a civil union, the legal process is a civil union dissolution.

Which One Should You Choose?

When choosing between a civil union and marriage, it is important to consider what benefits and protections are most important to you. If you are interested in receiving federal benefits that only marriage can provide, then you should consider getting married instead of entering into a civil union.

However, if you are not interested in federal benefits and protections, a civil union may still offer enough legal rights and protections to meet your needs. It is also important to consider how marriage or civil union may affect your estate planning and taxation. Couples should consult with a family law attorney to ensure they understand all the legal and financial implications associated with their choice.


In conclusion, marriage and civil union are two different types of legal relationships in Colorado, and they have different benefits, rights, and responsibilities. Both options provide legal protection for couples. Still, it’s important to understand the differences between them to make an informed decision. Whatever you choose, be sure to consult an experienced family law attorney to ensure you understand all the legal implications of your choice and navigate the process with ease.


Is civil union same as marriage in Colorado?

In Colorado, civil unions are a legally recognized way for couples to form a committed relationship, but they are not the same as marriage. While civil unions provide many of the legal benefits and protections afforded to married couples, they do not receive the same federal recognition as marriage.

One of the primary differences between marriage and civil unions is the level of recognition and protection they receive under federal law. As of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the Constitution, but this ruling only applies to marriage and not civil unions. This means that while same-sex marriages are recognized and protected by all levels of government, including the federal government, civil unions are not afforded the same level of protection.

Another difference between marriage and civil unions is the process of obtaining them. In Colorado, couples seeking to be married must obtain a marriage license and have a ceremony performed by an authorized person, such as a judge or clergy member. In order to form a civil union, couples must obtain a civil union license and have the union certified by an authorized person.

Despite these differences, civil unions can still provide important legal benefits and protections to couples in Colorado. For example, they can allow couples to make medical decisions for each other, share in financial benefits and responsibilities, and have legal rights to inheritance and property. Additionally, many employers and insurance providers recognize civil unions when extending benefits to employees and policyholders.

While civil unions and marriage are not the same in Colorado, civil unions can still be an important way for couples to formalize their commitment and gain important legal protections.

Why would someone choose a civil union over a marriage?

There are various reasons why some individuals may choose a civil union over a marriage. One of the primary reasons is that they don’t want to get married but still want to have legal protections for their relationship. Civil unions provide many of the same benefits and protections that marriages do, including inheritance rights, health care decision-making authority, and tax status. However, the terms of the union can vary from state to state, and not all of the privileges associated with marriages are available to those who are in a civil union.

Another reason that some couples may opt for a civil union instead of a marriage is related to federal recognition. Same-sex marriage was not legalized in the United States until 2015, and before then, many states offered civil unions to same-sex couples as a way to provide legal protections and recognition. Some individuals may have chosen a civil union over marriage at that time to avoid issues related to federal tax status or the ability to access federal benefits.

Another factor that may play into a decision to choose a civil union over a marriage is related to religion. For some couples, their religious beliefs may preclude them from getting married, but they still want the legal protections associated with a civil union. Additionally, some people may have reservations or concerns about the institution of marriage due to personal experiences or beliefs.

The decision to choose a civil union over a marriage is a personal one that will vary from individual to individual. While marriages remain the most common way that two individuals choose to formalize their commitment to each other, civil unions can provide an option for those who want to create a legally recognized union without getting married.

What does it mean when a couple is in a civil union?

A civil union is a legal relationship between two people that is created primarily as a means to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples. A civil union is often compared to a marriage in that it confers many of the same legal rights and protections that a traditional marriage provides. The purpose of a civil union is to ensure that same-sex couples who are in committed relationships have access to legal protections and benefits that are often provided only to married couples.

Civil unions first became available in the United States in 2000, when Vermont became the first state to recognize same-sex partnerships. Since then, many other states and countries have followed suit and introduced laws allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The legal rights provided to couples in a civil union vary from state to state and from country to country. In general, however, civil unions provide legal protections in areas such as inheritance, property ownership, tax benefits, healthcare and hospital visitation rights, immigration, child custody, and adoption.

It’s important to note that civil unions are not the same as marriage. In most cases, civil unions provide a limited set of rights and protections that do not extend to full legal marriage. Some people believe that civil unions are a compromise or a middle ground between full legal marriage and no legal recognition at all. Others view civil unions as a stepping stone towards full equality for same-sex couples.

In recent years, many countries and states that previously offered civil unions have moved towards full legal marriage for same-sex couples. For example, in the United States, many states that initially offered civil unions have since legalized same-sex marriage. In other parts of the world, such as South Africa and New Zealand, civil unions have been replaced with full legal marriage.

A civil union is a legal relationship between two people that provides legal protection to the couple at the state level. Civil unions are often created for same-sex couples who seek recognition and legal protections for their committed relationships. While civil unions provide some of the same legal protections as marriage, they are not the same thing and do not confer all of the benefits associated with full legal marriage.