In an historic day in Northern Ireland, same sex couples are now legally able to give notice of their intent to marry to the General Register Office for Northern Ireland. Allowing for a minimum notice period of 28 days, this means that Northern Ireland will see its first same sex marriages from February 2020.
Today’s change in legislation further allows for heterosexual couples to be able to enter into civil partnerships with one another rather than marry.
Up until recently, whilst same-sex couples were able enter into a Civil Partnership, they were not legally permitted to marry. In the same token, heterosexual couples were able to marry but were not permitted to enter into a civil partnership.
This progressive change in our law affords all couples in Northern Ireland the option to either enter into a civil partnserhip with one another or to get married.
Is there a legal difference between civil partnership and marriage?
In truth, civil partnerships offer almost identical rights to a couple as marriage, including rights to property, inheritance and tax entitlements. Should a civil partnership break down, property can be apportioned, maintenance arranged, and assets divided in the same way as these matters are handled in divorce.
Does simply cohabitating with my partner allow us the same rights as if we were married or in a civil partnership?
Generally speaking, you will have fewer rights if you are living together than if you are married or in a civil partnership.
Many people wrongly believe that with the passage of time, cohabiting couples enjoy the same rights as married couples or those in civil partnerships. There is a misconception that living together for years earns a couple the title of ‘common law husband and wife’ which gives them the same legal rights as married couples or those in civil partnerships, although this is not legally the case. This misconception can unfortunately lead to a cohabiting couple being left in a vulnerable position should the relationship break down or upon the death of one partner.