The Civil Unions law will become the effective in NJ in February 2007. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a number of differences that make civil unions not quite equal to marriage.
One was the differences in federal tax law. The Defense of Marriage Act (1996) defines marriage as between a man and woman for purposes of all federal benefits, which includes the tax code. This means that all transfers pursuant to a dissolution of a civil union would be treated as a gift and thus taxable to the recipient (and not deductible to the giver). I had talked about the tax aspects of alimony, but there are two other areas that could be problematic. One is equitable distribution. Again, splitting up the common assets accrued during the civil union would be considered a gift to the recipient and thus taxable. Another area is that splitting a retirement account earned during a civil union under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) may not be possible, since that is a federal program. Again, many of these areas are developing areas of law.
Another area was would another state recognize the civil union or the dissolution? In Rhode Island, a state that does not recognize same sex marriage or any type of same sex union/partnership, a same sex couple who were married in Massachussets has filed for divorce in RI. The family court asked the state supreme court for an opinion on the case, to see if RI had jurisdiction to do this. The supreme court asked the lower court for clarification on some issues. This could be an interesting case.