What is a Civil Partnership?
A Civil Partnership is a legally registered relationship which gives same sex couples similar rights to married couples of the opposite sex. These rights relate to areas such as Tax, pensions and the right to apply for parental responsibility for a partner’s child.
Civil Partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2005. They are sometimes referred to as ‘Gay marriage’, however this is not strictly accurate as there are some legal differences between a Civil Partnership and a marriage.
A number of different legal services are available in relationship to Civil Partnerships, both before entering into a partnership and in the event of a breakdown in the partnership.
Pre-partnership agreements are broadly similar to pre-nuptial agreements for marrying couples. Prior to entering into a civil partnership they enable you and your partner to set out what will happen if the relationship should break down. They can include things such as how jointly owned property and possessions will be divided if the partnership ends.
Although pre-partnership agreements are not currently legally binding in England, they are likely to be taken into account by the courts if they have been prepared in the correct manner and within the appropriate safeguards.
Dissolution of a Civil Partnership
If a Civil Partnership breaks down irretrievably you have to get permission from the court to dissolve the partnership. The court can grant you either a separation order or a dissolution order.
Dissolution orders for Civil Partnerships
Dissolution of a civil partnership is similar to a divorce for a married couple. Dissolution cannot be made within the first 12 months of the legal partnership. To apply for dissolution it has to be proven that the relationship has broken down. This must be done using one of the following grounds which are similar to the Grounds for Divorce:
- Your partner has behaved unreasonably
- You have been separated for two years and both agree to the dissolution
- One partner has deserted the other for at least two years
- You have been separated for at least five years (consent is not required)
The difference between the grounds for dissolution of a Civil Partnership and the grounds for a divorce is that adultery cannot be stated as the basis for dissolution of a Civil Partnership. This is because the term adultery is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. However, infidelity can be stated as a reason for dissolution of a civil partnership under the heading of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
As part of ending a civil partnership, arrangements may have to be made with regard to finances and children. 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.
Similarly, arrangements for residence of children and contact with the non-resident partner can be dealt with at the same time.
Separation orders for Civil Partnerships
Separation orders are generally used where the partnership has not yet lasted for 12 months, so a dissolution order is not yet available. The granting of a separation order means that you are unable to enter into another civil partnership until you get a dissolution order.
Contact us for more information about civil partnerships.