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Same Sex Marriage & Civil Partnerships

Our family law solicitors have experience of dealing with all aspects of both civil partnerships and same sex marriage. Below is an outline of the legalities of both and the differences between the two.

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Civil partnerships

Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2005. They 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 civil partnership is a legally registered relationship which gives same sex couples similar rights to married couples of the opposite sex. These rights relate to areas such as tax, pensions and the right to apply for parental responsibility for a partner’s child.

A variety of legal services are available in relation to civil partnerships, both before entering into a partnership and in the event of a breakdown in the partnership.

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Pre-partnership agreements

Pre-partnership agreements are broadly similar to pre-nuptial agreements for marrying couples. Before entering into a civil partnership it 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, they are likely to be taken into account by the courts if they have been prepared in the proper manner and within the appropriate safeguards.

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Dissolution of a civil partnership

If a civil partnership breaks down irretrievably, you must get permission from the court to dissolve the partnership legally. The court can grant you either a separation order or a dissolution order.

Separation orders

Separation orders are generally used where the partnership has not yet lasted for 12 months, meaning 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.

Dissolution orders

Dissolution of a civil partnership is similar to the divorce of a married couple. Dissolution cannot be made within the first 12 months of the civil partnership, in the same way that a couple of opposite sex cannot divorce before they have been married for 12 months.

To apply for dissolution it has to be proven that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. This must be done using one of the following grounds.:

These are similar to the grounds for divorce, the only 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. This is because the term ‘adultery’ is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. However, infidelity can still be stated as a reason for dissolution of a civil partnership under the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

When ending a civil partnership, arrangements may have to be made with regard to finances and children. It is possible to negotiate financial and property settlements in much the same way as with a divorce, these may involve property transfers, lump sum payments or ongoing maintenance and one of our specialist family solicitors can help you with these arrangements.

Similarly, arrangements for where the children shall live and for contact with the non-resident partner can be dealt with at the same time.

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Same sex marriage

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 effectively puts same-sex marriages on the same legal basis as those of heterosexual couples. The rights and obligations of a married same sex couple are exactly the same as those of a married opposite sex couple.

There are a number of benefits to a same sex marriage over a civil partnership, including:

The Married (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 also enables civil partners to convert their partnership into a marriage if they wish.

If you would like to discuss an issue with one of our family law solicitors, please contact us and one of our specialist team will be happy to advise you.

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