In 2004 the Civil Partnership Act was passed and came into effect in December 2005. It created civil partnerships, which gave same sex couples who entered into them the same rights and responsibilities of marriage. These partnerships were called ‘gay marriage’ by some of the British media; however, the government made clear that they were not marriages.
The legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed in July 2013 and came into force on 13 March 2014, and the first same sex marriages took place on 29 March 2014.
Since Section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force on 10 December 2014, anyone who is registered in a civil partnership is granted the ability to convert that partnership into a marriage.
Our specialist family solicitors can advise on the following:
- Civil Partnership Dissolution
- Same Sex Divorce
- Cohabitation Agreements
- Pre- and Post- Civil Partnership Agreements
- Pre- and Post- Nuptial Agreements
Civil Partnership Dissolution
Unfortunately, some Civil Partnerships will fall apart. The Partnership will have to be formally dissolved through the Courts; this is legally referred to as “civil partnership dissolution” and not “divorce”. Civil Partnership dissolution cannot be undertaken within the first year of that Civil Partnership. A question we are frequently asked is, is a civil partnership dissolution the same as a divorce?
The only ground for the dissolution of a civil partnership is the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.
This must be proven by citing one of the following facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years separation and consent to a divorce
- 2 years desertion
- 5 years separation
The only difference to an opposite sex divorce is that the ground of Adultery cannot be relied upon for a civil partnership dissolution. Adultery is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex and which cannot be used as grounds for a civil partnership dissolution. If one of the partners is unfaithful the grounds for dissolution may therefore be unreasonable behaviour.
Separating civil partners have the same financial legal remedies as divorcing couples. If you’re in a civil partnership you have rights to claim maintenance, lump sum payments, property transfer and pension sharing/attachment orders.
After the dissolution of your civil partnership you can acquire parental responsibility of your civil partner’s child by agreement or Court order thereby conferring all the rights and responsibilities that divorcing parents retain in relation to children. It is possible for separating civil partners to apply for contact and residence orders (now known as Child Arrangements Orders) also.
In general civil partners are treated as married people for the purpose of entitlement to welfare benefits.
Any will is automatically revoked on registration of a civil partnership. If no will has been made civil partners automatically inherit under the intestacy rules. If a will or the intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provision, then a civil partner can bring a claim against the deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Anything left to a Civil Partner either by will or passing by intestacy are exempt from Inheritance Tax.
Same Sex Divorce
The procedure for obtaining a same sex Divorce and the rights of the divorcing parties are exactly the same as with an opposite sex Divorce save that Adultery in relation to marriage of both opposite sex couples and same sex couples will continue to mean sexual intercourse between a man and a woman outside of marriage. All couples may cite infidelity not covered by this definition as a basis for divorce due to “unreasonable behaviour”.
Cohabitation Agreements and Declarations of Trust
If your relationship has not broken down but you wish to reduce the risk of a dispute in the future, we strongly recommend that you enter into a Cohabitation Agreement, which is similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, and sets out your intentions in the event of separation. If you intend to purchase a property together, it is also important to consider entering into a Declaration of Trust to specify and safeguard yours and your partner’s interests.
Pre- and Post-Civil Partnership Agreements
A Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement is an agreement signed before you enter into a Civil Partnership and a Post-Civil Partnership Agreement is signed during the Civil Partnership.
A Pre- or Post-Civil Partnership Agreement will set out what you and your civil partner agree should happen to your finances if, sadly, the relationship breaks down and you become separated.
Pre-Civil Partnership Agreements can be useful when one or both partners would like to retain assets they acquired prior to the civil partnership, should the civil partnership dissolve.
Whilst Pre- and Post-Civil Partnership Agreements are still not binding under English Law, the courts are increasingly taking them into account during the Dissolution of civil partnerships, where certain criteria and safeguards have been met.
For expert advice on any Same sex relationship issues please contact one of our specialist family lawyers.