Civil Partnerships extended to opposite-sex couples

Civil partnerships extended to opposite-sex couples
From this week, couples of the opposite sex will be able to register their intent for a civil partnership.

After a hard-fought campaign and legal challenge spanning half a decade from the Equal Civil Partnership Campaign Group, with campaigners Dr Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, the remit of the Civil Partnerships law has been extended, by virtue of the Civil Partnership, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Act 2019, which now provides in Section 2 (1):

  • “To persons who are not of the same sex to form a civil partnership in England and Wales”

These regulations will be in full effect no later than 31 December 2019. As of 2 December, those who held previous ceremonies in other jurisdictions that already provide civil partnerships, such as the Isle of Man, New Zealand, South Africa and Netherlands, will have their unions automatically recognised, and couples in England and Wales will be able to register their intent to form a civil partnership.

The minimum period of notice for a civil partnership is 28 days, meaning that mixed-sex couples who registered their intent on the first day may conduct their civil partnerships as early as New Year’s Eve.

Head of Family Law and Partner at Birchall Blackburn Law, Gill Graveson, believes that the change in law is a welcome one:

“It seems to have been a long time coming for what will be a fundamental change in how we approach the division of assets between civil partners and how the court can assist in a dispute. Without a partnership agreement in place the courts protection for cohabiting opposite-sex couples has been quite limited and often unfair to one of the parties involved,” said Gill.

Thinking about the future

At Birchall Blackburn Law, our IT Manager, Jonathan Dickinson, has been thinking about civil partnerships and what benefits they could provide for him and his partner, Maria. They have both been watching this campaign for some time.

“After having lived together for a number of years, we were delighted when the Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships succeeded for mixed-sex couples,” said Jonathan.
 
“Neither of us were very keen on the idea of marriage, but we were thinking about the future and how we would both want next of kin rights when crucial decisions had to be made for each other, as well as in relation to financial matters.
 
“So when civil partnerships offered a more modern and fuss-free way of having the same rights that marriage provided, we decided to go for it!
 
“It is a great way of being equal partners without the traditional association with patriarchy and religion. Rather than ‘husband and wife’ you are ‘partners’ and we can just go to the registry office and sign the papers with two witnesses – no rings or vows needed, though this is just a choice and you can if you want to.
 
“Our plan is to have our close family over as the witnesses with all 5 family dogs (as long as they decide to behave themselves!), and have a celebratory lunch in the pub afterwards.”

What are civil partnerships?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people and offers many of the same benefits and or protection offered by the court as a traditional marriage.

Introduced in 2004 by the then Labour Government under the Civil Partnership Act, they applied to same-sex couples over the age of 16.

At the same time, same-sex marriages were not yet legal in the UK, which came into effect in 2014.

Once registered for a civil partnership, the partnerships can only be ended if one of you dies, or by applying to a court to bring the partnership legally to an end.

What are the benefits of a civil partnership?

Those in a civil partnership benefit from the same rights as married couples in terms of pensions, inheritance and tax benefits. They can also seek the courts assistance should the relationship break down in similar terms to a divorce in so far as what the court must take into consideration.

How are civil partnerships different from marriages?

Unlike a traditional marriage, there are no religious connotations attached to a civil partnership.

This can make civil partnerships desirable for those who want to legally recognise their relationship, but might not align themselves with a particular religion.

The ‘ceremony’ of a civil partnership will take place in front of a registrar, as opposed to a recognised religious leader, such as a rabbi or vicar.

The civil partnership ceremony itself does not require an exchange of vows or rings, although the couple are free to do so if they wish.

Instead, the union becomes valid after both parties sign the civil partnership document.

If you require advice on your relationship or any of the Family Law services we provide, Birchall Blackburn Law offer a free 20-minute initial consultation. Call and speak to one of our specialist legal team on 0800 614 722, or send an email to enquiries@birchallblackburn.co.uk.

For more information about our Family Law services and how our specialist solicitors can help you, please visit our Family Law page here.

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