What legal status can same-sex relationships have now?


The Civil Partnership Act (2005) means that couples in same-sex relationships can now enjoy the wide range of civil rights and responsibilities accorded to heterosexual couples through the institution of marriage. Therefore, for same-sex couples thinking of entering into a civil partnership there will be issues surrounding their future changed legal status to consider. For complex matters such as individual and joint finances and parental rights, it is advisable to consult a family law solicitor for legal advice before setting a date for the civil partnership to be formed.

Same-sex couples who have entered into a civil partnership now have many more rights than co-habiting couples of any gender. In fact, there is no such legal entity as ‘common law marriage’, where couples who have been living together for a period of time are thought to acquire the rights of marriage or civil partnership. The case of Burns v. Burns (1984) established that sharing a house, children and a name does not guarantee legal protection for a more financially vulnerable partner, or a partner without Parental Responsibility. Many disputes between cohabitees will likely be governed by property law rather than family law.

On the other hand a civil partnership gives you the same rights and duties as heterosexual marriage in all areas of life together, including:

  • Taxation, including inheritance tax
  • Income-related benefits
  • State pensions
  • The financial maintenance of a partner
  • Child support and access to parental rights
  • Tenancy rules
  • Protection from domestic violence
  • Hospital visiting
  • Life assurance
  • Dissolution (the ending of a civil partnership)

The major difference between heterosexual marriage and same-sex civil partnerships is that there is no religious implication to be made through the legal process. For example, the word ‘marriage’ may be seen as deriving from religious sources, and the clergy cannot perform a civil partnership – this is to be enacted by specified registrars only. In addition, the addresses of the same-sex couple in a civil union are not to be made public, to avoid possible public controversy for the couple in question.

A family solicitor will be able to advise you further regarding the legal status of same-sex relationships as they will be an expert regarding the complex financial and parental issues this legal status may involve.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on civil partnerships, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local family solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local family solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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