Civil Partnerships - Legal Advice
Advice On Forming A Civil Partnership - Legal Advice For Gay Men and Lesbians
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5th December 2005. From that date, two Partners of the same sex had the right to register for a Civil Partnership and become "civil partners". Before a Civil Partnership can be formed a period of 15 days notice has to be given, this means that partners who apply for a Civil Partnership as soon as the act comes into force, the earliest date they could sign the Civil Partnership Document was the 21st December 2005.
How are Civil Partnerships formed?
The registration of a civil partnership must take place in England and Wales and may not be in religious premises. The Civil Partnership Document is signed in the presence of each other, the registrar and two witnesses. Civil Partnerships are formed without the exchange of vows. These formalities will be carried out at a registry office or any other premises that are licensed for that purpose.
The Advantages of a Civil Partnership
Civil Partners will be treated for Tax purposes in the same way as a married couple. The main advantage of this is that upon death, any property or money passing between Civil Partners is free from inheritance tax. Be aware that the forming of a Civil Partnership automatically voids any Will you may have made previously. Even if your present Will leaves all property to each other, this will not be valid if a new Will is not made. Civil Partners who have not made Wills are treated in accordance with the rules on intestacy. This would mean that where a Civil Partner leaves no children, the remaining Civil Partner will be entitled to receive the personal possessions, £200,000 and half the residuary, the other half of the residue going to other relatives. (A Will is probably one of the most important documents you will ever make in your life. Our Wills service has helped many gay people understand the importance of having a Will – if you don’t have a Will don't delay, contact to see how we can help - or see the "Contact Us" section at the top of this page ).
The rules on Pensions will be amended to give rights to Civil Partners. Any benefits available for a husband and wife for a state pension will apply to a Civil Partner. Similar provisions will apply for private pension schemes.
How are civil partnerships ended? (Civil Partnership Dissolution)
Unfortunately, some Civil Partnerships will fall apart. The Partnership will have to be formally dissolved through the Courts. This is known as a "Civil Partnership Dissolution"). Civil Partnerships are ended in a very similar way to the ending of a marriage. Civil Partnerships cannot be dissolved within their first year. The sole ground for dissolution is that the partnership has irretrievably broken down by the applicant satisfying the court of one or more of the four facts as set out in the Act.
Financial provision on dissolution
As Civil Partners are entitled to equality, on dissolution, the Court will treat the Civil Partnership in the same way as if they were dealing with a marriage, this means that the Court can order payment of maintenance, lump sums, property adjustment, sale of property and pension sharing. At present, if a relationship between a same-sex couple breaks down, assets are divided in accordance with who owns them. If you live with a partner who owns the house you live in, at present, you would receive nothing from this unless you can establish you have acquired a legal interest in it some way and this is extremely difficult. If the Courts were dealing with the same situation following the dissolution of a Civil Partnership, the starting point would be to consider dividing the house on a 50/50 basis, even though it is only owned by one partner.
Consider a Pre-Partnership Agreement?
An agreement drawn between Partners which attempts to deal with the division of finances if the relationship breaks down is on the face of it void. However, the Courts have recently started to give consideration to such agreements. It is worth while considering taking advice on entering into an agreement as it may be taken into account in the future, even though there is no guarantee of this. The Courts may be more likely to consider the basis of such an agreement if the Civil Partnership was relatively short.
The Civil Partnership Act creates many new rights and responsibilities; it is not possible to list them all here. If you do require legal advice on Civil Partnerships please contact or telephone: 01922 612444.
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