From 5 December 2005 same-sex couples will be able to formalise their relationship before friends, family and the State by entering into a Civil Partnership.
Couples will be able to register as partners in a civil procedure, where they sign a “civil partnership” in the presence of the registrar, each other and witnesses. The ceremony can take place at a registry office or anywhere with a licence for civil partnerships, but cannot be held in a building used for religious purposes.
A civil partnership, just like a marriage brings with it a number of financial and legal rights and responsibilities, and it is important to consider these issues in advance:
- Just as marriage invalidates an existing will, so it will be important for couples to write new wills after they have entered into a partnership as the law relating to wills and inheritance tax will apply in just the same way
- Where one partner has substantial assets, they may wish to consider carefully what might happen if the relationship were to fail. Although not being able to divorce as such, the partnership may be ended by dissolution or annulment through the courts, where there will be consideration of the maintenance rights of the other partner
- In addition to maintenance, the court on the making of a dissolution or nullity order is able to order the payment of lump sums and orders in respect of property, such as a sale or transfer from one partner to the other
- Pension sharing orders may also be made by the court on the making of a dissolution or nullity order or at any time afterwards. A pension sharing order is an order which provides that one civil partner’s sharable rights under a specified pension arrangement or under a sharable state scheme rights be shared for the benefit of the other civil partner
- Child care issues can be very complicated if one or both parties have been married before or have children from a previous relationship. Civil partners will also be treated within the definition of couples for the purpose of adoption and will be entitled to apply for contact or residence orders
Pre-partnership agreements are similar to pre-nuptual agreements and it is anticipated, will be treated by the courts in a similar way. Although many same-sex couples have children, many do not. Where there are no children of the partnership then there may be strong arguments for the terms of a pre-partnership agreement to be given significant weight in resolving financial claims. Even where there are children, in certain circumstances, courts may take such agreements into consideration when resolving financial claims.
For more information, please contact Julie Wain at Stafford on 01785 211411, or Shani Carr at Rugeley on 01889 583871
Published on web site – April 2007
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)