Since 5 December 2005 it has been possible for individuals in same sex relationships to attain legal recognition for relationships by registering as “civil partners”. Opposite sex partners may now enter into a 'civil partnership' - as from 2019. The law has not yet allowed opposite sex partners to enter into civil partnerships, although a recent Court of Appeal decision has held that not allowing this is unlawful discrimination and law reforms are expected shortly. Civil marriage is now available to same sex couples - please see separate article.
Civil partnership is not marriage but shares many of the same features. The partnership ends only upon death or dissolution by a Court and carries legal consequences:-
- Each party has an obligation to make lifetime financial provisions for the other – and upon any breakdown of the relationship there are rights to apply to the Court for financial provision for example for capital provision and maintenance as in a divorce.
- The grounds for dissolution of a civil partnership are similar to those currently available upon divorce. The Applicant must show that the relationship has irretrievably broken down and this must be verified by one of the supporting grounds of unreasonable behaviour or varying periods of separation – similar to those arising upon divorce. Unlike divorce “Adultery” unfaithfulness is not a discrete ground – although this may amount to unreasonable behaviour. It is anticipated that once the law on divorce changes, there will be a similar change for civil partnerships.
- Civil partners have the same rights in relation to redress for domestic violence (see separate note) or protection under the Inheritance Act (see separate note) as those who are married.
- Dissolution of a Civil Partnership will have the effect of rendering void any provision in a Will for a surviving formal Civil Partner – as upon divorce. Separating Civil Partners should consider making a new Will.
- Civil Partners enjoy the same status for tax purposes as those who are married so far example property passing to a Civil Partner on death is exempt from Inheritance Tax - without limit. Civil Partners may need to consider Inheritance Tax planning.
UK Civil Partnerships will not be recognised as legally enforceable in all foreign jurisdictions – and foreign civil partnerships will be recognised as valid here if it was legally valid in every respect under the law of the country where it was originally registered.
Lawson Lewis Blakers have experience of advising Civil Partners in relation to:-
- Wills and testamentary planning
- Breakdown of relationships
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