What is a civil partnership?
A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between same-sex couples.Same-sex couples are able to register their relationship and acquire many of the same rights and obligations enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.
What rights do I have if I am in a civil partnership?
Civil partners enjoy the same rights as married people.
For example, if a child is born to a married couple, both parties automatically have parental responsibility for that child. This also applies to civil partners and therefore allows both parents to have an input in the major decisions relating to the child such as health, education and religious upbringing.In addition, if a civil partnership breaks down, the civil partners have the same claims as a married couple on divorce. The civil partner can therefore claim maintenance, orders for transfers of property, and pension sharing, to name but a few.
There are various other rights which civil partners enjoy by virtue of the civil partnership. Civil partners are able to make use of the inheritance tax legislation in the same way as married people. Civil partners have an entitlement to claim against the other’s estate, or are entitled to receive the equivalent of a widow or widower’s pension from the other’s pension fund. Civil partners also enjoy the same employment benefits and are broadly entitled to the same welfare benefits as a married couple.
What if my civil partnership breaks down?
In broad terms, the process which applies to the breakdown of the marriage would also apply to the breakdown of a civil partnership. However, there are some differences as follows:
- A marriage which has broken down ends in “divorce” but a civil partnership which is broken down ends with a “dissolution”.
- A civil partner cannot rely on adultery as one of the “facts” for the breakdown of the relationship, as married people can.
- In a marriage, the court will make a Decree Nisi Order but in a civil partnership, the court will make a Conditional Order.
- At the end of the process, whilst a Decree Absolute is pronounced for married people, the court makes a Dissolution Order for the breakdown of the civil partnership.
In all other respects, civil partners have the same rights with regard to finances and children as those who were married.
As a civil partner, can I have a prenuptial agreement?
As is the case for two people who are about to marry, if you are about to enter into a civil partnership, you can make a pre-nuptial agreement. This can regulate what should happen to property, income and other financial matters if the civil partnership breaks down. Technically, the document would be called a pre-civil partnership agreement.
An agreement can also be made shortly after two people enter into a civil partnership, known as a post-civil partnership agreement.The law relating to such agreements still remains unclear. There has been recent case law to suggest that if certain conditions are met, these agreements are more likely to be binding. However, this is not the absolute position and the most that can be said is that the agreement will be one of the factors to be taken into account by the court on the breakdown of the civil partnership.