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Civil Partnerships & Same Sex Marriages

There are many differences between a civil partnership and a same sex marriage, all of which our family law solicitors have experience in dealing with 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 the UK introduced civil partnerships. Commonly referred to as ‘gay marriages’, this is not strictly correct as there are many legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage.

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

For civil partnerships there are a variety of legal services available, both before entering into a partnership and when a relationship breaks down.

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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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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 been in place for less than 12 months a separation orders is used. A dissolution order is only available after the first 12 months of the civil partnership. Once you have been granted a separation order you cannot legally enter into another civil partnership until you complete the process through a dissolution order.

Dissolution orders

A dissolution order for a civil partnership is similar to the divorce of a married couple. It cannot be made within the first 12 months of the civil partnership, in the same way that a couple of the opposite sex cannot apply for a divorce until they have been married for at least 12 months.

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

The only difference between these grounds and the grounds for divorce is that “adultery” cannot be claimed as a reason. This is because the term ‘adultery’ is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. If adultery is in the reason for the breakdown og your relationship 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 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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Pre-partnership agreements

A pre-partnership agreement can be put in place for same sex couples before entering into a civil partnership. This is similar to a pre-nuptial agreement. The agreement enables you and your partner to set out what should happen in the event of the relationship breaking down. It can include decisions such as how jointly owned property and other assets will be divided.

Although no currently legally binding in England, pre-partnership agreements 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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