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Civil partnerships give you certain rights and obligations with regards to your relationship. Judge & Priestley can advise you as to your entitlements.
There is the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which allows same-sex couples to obtain the same rights as a civil marriage, and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which legalises same-sex marriage. Though very similar it is important to recognise that they are two different things; you can either enter into a civil partnership or get married.
What is a Civil Partnership?
Same-sex relationships are entitled to register for a civil partnership. It is a legally-recognised relationship that gives rise to certain legal rights and responsibilities.
To register a civil partnership you must:
- Give notice of your intention to do so to the local register office 28 days before registration.
- Register your civil partnership. It requires a civil partnership document signed by you and your partner and it needs to be witnessed by a register alongside two others. You may not apply for a civil partnership if you have an existing marriage or a civil partnership. The registration must be done within 12 months after eligibility.
To dissolve a civil partnership, you must go through a process similar to but separate from divorce. You will need to ask the court to dissolve your civil partnership.
What rights do Civil Partnerships have?
Since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, existing civil partners that wish to may convert their partnership into marriage.
Civil Partnerships afford couples the same rights as that of a different-sex marriage, for example, tax and pension benefits. If a civil partnership dissolves, partners also have the right to apply for child and/or spousal maintenance, child custody and relationship property rights.
However, same-sex couples living together will not qualify as a civil partnership simply on that basis. Living together will merely cast it as a cohabiting relationship, and it will not afford the same rights and responsibilities, as it is not a legally recognised relationship. To be in a civil partnership, it must be registered.
Judge & Priestley have up to date knowledge and resources to be able to provide you with advice in any civil partnership issues. Call us in complete confidence on 020 8290 7341 or 020 8290 0333 to make an appointment.
Pre-civil Partnership Agreement
Just as with marriage, those entering into a civil partnership should consider whether they need to attempt to safeguard any assets before entering into the civil partnership. A pre-civil partnership agreement can be entered into specifying how the parties intend to conduct themselves financially and otherwise, and their intentions as far as any pre-owned assets and any assets acquired during the civil partnership are concerned as well as how other assets such as inherited property should be treated. See pre-nuptial agreements
The same considerations as for a pre-nuptial agreement apply so that both parties must have legal advice, enter into the agreement voluntarily and the agreement must be entered into well in advance of the civil partnership ceremony if it is to have any chance of being upheld on dissolution of the civil partnership.
The Dissolution Process
As with divorce the only ground for dissolution of a civil partnership is that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. The law changed on the 6 April 2022 meaning that the requirement to establish one of the facts, such as unreasonable behaviour or a period of separation, in support has been removed.
Neither party to a civil partnership can apply for dissolution in the first year. Prior to then or where the parties wish to separate but do not wish to dissolve the partnership, but want to regularise their financial affairs as part of a separation, the parties can enter into a separation agreement.
Anyone applying to dissolve their civil partnership can do so individually or jointly with their partner. The Court will issue the Application and after a minimum period of 20 weeks, the applicant(s) will confirm that they wish the Application to continue and apply for the Conditional Order. This is the penultimate order. Six weeks and one day after the Conditional Order being made, the Applicant(s) can apply to the Court for the Final Order, although you should not do so without first seeking advice as to the implications. Once that is granted the civil partnership is dissolved.
Straightforward dissolution proceedings will therefore take at least six months (26 weeks). The intention behind the minimum periods is to allow the parties a period of reflection and to endeavour to agree practical arrangements for the future. Disagreements about the finances involved can prolong the process considerably.
The financial claims that one partner can make against the other on dissolution of a civil partnership are essentially the same as divorcing couples. The factors to be taken into account by the court are also similar. The Court will look at the resources available to the parties, the parties’ needs, the standard of living enjoyed during the civil partnership, the age of each civil partner, the duration of the civil partnership, any mental or physical disability of either civil partner, the contributions which each civil partner has made or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family, the conduct of each civil partner (if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard) and the loss of a dependant’s pension and similar rights.