Civil partnerships – an update

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Back in July, I wrote here about the discrepancy between the rights of same sex and different sex couples to enter into civil partnerships. In the article, I alluded to the likelihood of the extension of civil partnership rights, and now the law is about to change, thus ending the current inequality.

The option to enter into a civil partnership rather than marriage has been closed to different sex couples ever since civil partnerships were introduced in 2004, when the Civil Partnership Act stated that only same-sex couples were entitled to apply. A couple of landmark cases in recent months, which I referred to in my previous article, have challenged that. This was followed by the Prime Minister’s recent announcement confirming the extension of civil partnership rights to different sex couples.

It is expected that this amendment to the law will progress through parliament relatively quickly and it is likely to be officially enacted by the summer of 2019.

However, the change to legislation will not automatically offer protection to cohabiting couples who choose not to formally apply for a civil partnership. In these cases, parental rights will still automatically be awarded to the mother.

From an international perspective, it is important to consider whether civil partnerships will be recognised in a foreign country. The legal status of an English civil partnership is not always recognised in other countries. In such jurisdictions, civil partners under UK law are likely to be treated as cohabitants.

The Civil Partnerships Act contemplates the recognition of foreign civil partnerships of several countries, and most of these give reciprocal recognition to some rights. However, rights which apply to the dissolution of a civil partnership under UK law may not fully apply elsewhere. In such instances, if the couple entered into a civil partnership in the UK it would be advisable, if possible, to apply for a dissolution of the partnership here too.

Applying for a civil partnership allows couples protect their assets and formalise their relationship without the need for a church or registry office ceremony. If you’re unsure about your rights as a couple, whether you’re married, in a same-sex civil partnership, or cohabiting, our Family team can advise you on your status.