Civil Partnerships v Marriage

August 22, 2018

Civil partnerships have featured extensively in the media due to the recent Supreme Court decision. In this the Court ruled  that civil partnerships are discriminatory towards heterosexual couples as they currently cannot enter into a civil partnership and only have the ability to formalise their relationship through marriage.

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Since 2013, couples of the same sex have also been able to marry, providing them with two ways of formally legalising their relationship. Following the Supreme Court decision the law on civil partnerships is anticipated to change to benefit heterosexual couples, given the changing nature of relationships and the values associated with marriage.

What is a civil partnership?

A legally recognised relationship between two people of the same sex offering many of the same benefits as a conventional marriage which came into force in 2014.

They are seen as a desirable option for those who want to legally recognise their relationship but do not necessarily want to associate themselves to a particular religion and who want to be free of the religious connotations associated with marriage.

Civil partnerships provide legal and financial protection for both parties in the event that the relationship breaks down.

What are the benefits of entering into a civil partnership?

Once a couple have registered a civil partnership the legal effects are almost identical to marriage. Some of the benefits include:

  • The obligation to support one another financially;
  • The ability to inherit a substantial part your partner’s property on their death;
  • Pension provision is likely to be available from your partner’s pension scheme after their death;
  • Civil partners are treated in the same way as married couples for taxation purposes. For example, assets passed to your partner will not be subject to inheritance tax. Also a civil partner does not have to pay capital gains tax on the transfer of assets to their civil partner provided they are living together. In addition, when a civil partner sells or otherwise disposes of their only or main residence, they may be entitled to Private Residence Relief.
  • Social security and other benefits;
  • Hospitals should recognise you as your partner’s next of kin;
  • The right to claim damages from a person causing the death of your partner; and
  • The ability to obtain parental responsibility for your partner’s child.

What happens if the civil partnership breaks down?

This can be dissolved in a similar process to a divorce. A dissolution will be granted if the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down but note you cannot apply for a dissolution of the partnership within a year of its registration.

Irretrievable breakdown can be based on one of the following four facts:

  • Unreasonable behaviour: you need to show that your partner has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect for you to continue living with them. This behaviour could include domestic abuse and sexual infidelity;
  • You have been separated from your partner for two years and both agree to the dissolution;
  • You have been separated from your partner for five years; and
  • Your partner has deserted you for at least two years.

Dividing up assets and dealing with children issues following a dissolution:

When the court grants a dissolution of a civil partnership it can rule on the division of property between the partners in a similar way to the division on divorce. The basic rule is that any property obtained by either partner during the partnership is split equally between the partners. The court can also rule on living and contact arrangements for any children you have been parenting.

Following a dissolution it is always advisable to instruct a family solicitor to draft a consent order to formalise any financial arrangements which have been agreed with your partner to ensure that you are protected and all future financial claims you may have against each other are ended.

If you require any legal advice in respect of this area, please contact Rebecca Jones at Metcalfes Solicitors.

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Civil Partnerships v Marriage

Rebecca Aston-Jones

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