Civil Partnerships / Same sex marriages
A Civil Partnership is a legally registered relationship which gives same sex couples legal rights similar to those of married couples. The rights relate to areas such as tax, pensions and the right to apply for parental responsibility for a partner’s child.
Civil Partnerships were first introduced in the UK in 2005 and are sometimes referred to as ‘Gay marriage’, however this is not strictly accurate as there are some legal differences between a Civil Partnership and a marriage.
A number of legal services are available in relationship to Civil Partnerships, both before entering into a partnership and in the event of a breakdown in the partnership.
Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
Parts of this act came into force on 29th March 2014. From that date same sex couple can marry rather than enter same same sex civil partnerships. When it is all implemented the Act, which applies to England and Wales, will:
- allow same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies
- allow same sex couples to marry in religious ceremonies, where the religious organisation has ‘opted in’ to conduct such ceremonies and the minister of religion agrees
- protect those religious organisations and their representatives who don’t wish to conduct marriages of same sex couples from successful legal challenge
- enable civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage, if they wish
- enable married individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage
Pre-Partnership Agreements for Civil Partners
Pre-partnership agreements are broadly similar to pre-nuptial agreements for marrying couples.
Before entering into a civil partnership a pre-partnership agreement enables you and your partner to set out what will happen if the relationship should break down. It can include things such as how jointly owned property and possessions will be divided if the partnership ends.
Although pre-partnership agreements are not currently legally binding in England, in the same way that pre-nuptial agreements are not, they are usually taken into account by the courts if they have been prepared in the correct manner and within the appropriate safeguards. Contact us for more information on this.
Dissolution of a Civil Partnership
If a Civil Partnership breaks down irretrievably you have to get permission from the court to dissolve the partnership. The court can then grant you either a separation order or a dissolution order.
Dissolution orders for Civil Partnerships
Dissolution of a civil partnership is similar to a divorce for a married couple. You have to wait 12 months from the date of the civil partnership to be able to get dissolution.
To obtain a dissolution it has to be proven that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. This has to be done using one of the following grounds which are similar to the grounds for divorce:
- Your partner has behaved unreasonably
- You have been separated for two years and both agree to the dissolution
- One partner has deserted the other for at least two years
- You have been separated for at least five years (consent is not required)
The main difference between the grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership and the grounds for a divorce is that adultery cannot be stated as the basis for dissolution of a civil partnership. (For a divorce Adultery is the fifth ground for divorce in addition to those listed above.) This is because in England the term adultery is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. However, if infidelity is the reason then this can be stated as a reason for dissolution of a civil partnership under the heading of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
As part of ending a civil partnership, we can also help you to deal with associated areas which need to be resolved such as children, finances and property.
Separation orders for Civil Partnerships
Separation orders are often used where the partnership has not yet lasted for 12 months, so a dissolution order is not yet available.
The granting of a separation order means that you are unable to enter into another civil partnership until you get a dissolution order.
Contact us for more information about legal services relating to civil partnerships.
Two members of our Family law team are members of Resolution.
Members of Resolution are required to follow the Resolution code of practice which commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way, preserving people’s dignity and encouraging agreements.