Reader Stories: Financial Implications of Colorado Civil Unions

May 6, 2013

 We have three anniversaries to celebrate.

Our first two anniversaries, which mark our first date in 2006 and the small commitment ceremony we had with friends and family in 2008, are private affairs. But as of May 1, when we were among the first Coloradans to get a civil union, we made that third anniversary decidedly public.

We held our civil union ceremony at midnight on the first day it went into effect. As we forced ourselves to stay awake so much later than our normal bedtime at the Denver Clerk and Recorder's office, it struck us how ironic it was that the protections of a civil union are most significant if that civil union is no longer in effect.

Over seven and a half years, we have built a life together that involves investments in our relationship and in our financial well-being. We share our days and dreams for the future, but more practically, we share bank accounts, a mortgage, cars, grocery bills, and decisions on how to make sure our futures are secure. It sounds unromantic, but a civil union gives us the peace of mind in knowing that Colorado now recognizes how much each of us has at stake.

There’s a financial aspect to having multiple ceremonies too.  Weddings, no matter how simple you try to make it, can still cost an arm and a leg.  Food, event location, flower, invitations, photographers all add up quickly.  Our first ceremony was a costlier adventure and this time around we opted for a city hall and backyard barbeque type of affair.  These types of purchases however, are easier to swallow than say, visiting with a lawyer to draw up a will and ensure we have some basic rights for each other, including having a power of attorney.

Before civil unions were a reality, we spent $2,500 with an estate planner who filed a mountain of paperwork that would help us cover our legal bases as best we could. Civil unions now puts many of these protections we paid for into law. This includes provisions that mandate us to fairly divide our assets if we split up, allow us to inherit and share property, and will make sure the children we will have will be protected if -- God forbid -- one or both of us dies.

Sonja’s brother and his wife lived together for eight years before they married, so they faced many of the same risks we did before they tied the knot. Their marriage license sent a signal to the state and federal government that they were serious about building a life together. Now that we have at least some of the protections afforded to them, both the emotional and financial aspects of our own relationship will be given a similar kind of dignity.

This post was written by Courtney Law and Sonja Semion. Courtney is a communications consultant and Sonja is the executive director at a nonprofit organization.  

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