Family Solicitors in Chester
family solicitors in Chester

Civil Partnerships & Same Sex Marriages

Both civil partnerships and same sex marriages have different laws surround them. Our family law solicitors have experience in dealing with all aspects of both civil partnerships and same sex marriages and can provide you with the highest quality advice. Below is an outline of the legalities of both and the differences between the two.

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Civil partnerships

In 2005 civil partnerships were introduced in the UK. Whilst sometimes referred to as ‘gay marriage’, this is not strictly accurate as there are legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage.

The law describes a civil partnership as a legally registered relationship which gives same sex couples rights which are similar to the rights married couples of the opposite sex have. The legal rights relate to areas such as pensions, tax and the right to apply for parental responsibility for a partner’s child.

When it comes to advising clients on civil partnerships there are a variety of legal services available, both before entering into a partnership and when a breakdown of the relationship happens.

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Pre-partnership agreements

Similar to pre-nuptial agreements a pre-partnership agreement can be put in place for same sex couples before entering into a civil partnership. The agreement enables you and your partner to set out what should happen if the relationship breaks down. These agreements can include decisions such as how jointly owned property and possessions will be divided.

Pre-partnership agreements are not currently legally binding in England and Wales however, they are likely to be taken into account by the courts. Although, only if they have been prepared in the proper manner and within the appropriate safeguards.

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Breakdown of a civil partnership

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

Separation orders

If a partnership has lasted 12 months or less a separation order is used as a dissolution order is only available after the first 12 months of the civil partnership have passed. Once you have been granted a separation order it means that you cannot legally 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. A dissolution order cannot be made within the first 12 months of the civil partnership, in the same way that a couple of opposite sex who want to be divorced cannot do so until they have been married for 12 months.

In order to apply for a dissolution order you have to prove that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. You must use one of the following grounds to do this:

These grounds are the same as the grounds for a divorce apart from one key element which is that in the grounds for divorce “adultery” can be claimed whereas in the grounds for dissolution it cannot. The reason for this being that the term ‘adultery’ is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. If adultery is the reason for the irretrievable breakdown you can state infidelity as a reason for dissolution of a civil partnership under the element of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

When ending a civil partnership, arrangements regarding finances and children may have to be made. 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.

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