Equality in Marriage & Civil Partnership now law in Northern Ireland.

gay cake

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.

For further information on civil partnerships, cohabitation or any other aspect of family law, please feel free to contact us here or via the comment box below.

Civil Partnerships

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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.

However, on 13th January 2020 in an historic day in Northern Ireland, same sex couples became 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.

The change in legislation further allows for heterosexual couples to be able to enter into civil partnerships with one another rather than marry.

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.

What are the rights of couples who enter into a Civil Partnership??

Under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019, all couples entering into a civil partnership essentially have the same legal rights as couples who have entered into a civil marriage.

By entering into a civil partnership, couples will acquire, amongst others, the following legal rights and responsibilities:-

  • The same rights to property as married couples -for example, they may by law have rights over their partner’s property even if they are not on the title deeds
  • They are considered their partner’s legal ‘next of kin’ – for example, if their partner is sick in hospital, they would be entitled to information about their medical treatment
  • The same rights of inheritance as married couples – for example, if their partner died without making a Will, they would be treated as next of kin and are able to inherit from their partner’s Estate.
  • Entitlement to the same inheritance tax exemptions as married couples – ie they can leave their assets upon death to their partner without being hit with inheritance tax.
  • The same recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
I have separated from my civil partner – what are my rights??

If civil partners separate, the law allows for property issues, maintenance matters and pension entitlement to all be dealt with in the same way as if the couple were a married couple going through a divorce.

When issues between civil partners can’t be resolved by agreement, the Court can adjudicate on how property and pensions should be divided out or how much maintenance should be paid by one partner to the other – much the same way as if the couple were married and divorcing.

If you would like any further information on the law surrounding civil partnerships, please feel free to contact us confidentially here or leave your comments below.

 

End of decade marks beginning of Civil Partnerships for Mixed Sex Couples

Today, the last day of the decade, is the day that thousands of mixed-sex couples in England & Wales are expected to enter into civil partnerships.

Up until now, under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, it has only been legal for same-sex couples to become civil partners under UK law. However, a long legal battle by heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan culminated in a ground-breaking Supreme Court decision in 2018 whereby it was held that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in this respect was incompatible with human rights legislation.  As a result of this decision, steps have now been taken to extend the law surrounding civil partnerships to include mixed sex couples.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP indicated in a House of Commons debate back in October 2019 that the Government would ensure that the necessary regulations are in place in Northern Ireland by 13 January 2020 to allow civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

He went on to state that “From that date, we expect that couples will be able to give notice of their intent to form a civil same-sex marriage or opposite-sex civil partnership to the General Register Office for Northern Ireland. Given the usual 28-day notice period, the first marriages should be able to take place in the week of Valentine’s day”

Cohabiting couples have been the fastest growing family type over the last decade with over 3.3 million cohabiting mixed sex couples in the UK last year. The government has estimated that approximately 84,000 mixed-sex couples could become civil partners in the next year.

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.

This new change to the law is important as it will now allow cohabiting couples to enter into a civil partnership, giving them greater rights and protections within their relationships, without having to get married.

For further information on civil partnerships, please  feel free to contact us hereor via the comment box below.

LIFE BITE: Redundancy – What next for Thomas Cook employees?

apple-150579_1280The devastating news of the closure of Thomas Cook has dominated the headlines this week and all of us feel deeply saddened for affected staff members and holiday makers alike, many of whom are still stranded with questions remaining about what, if any, redress could be available to them.

 

Employees with two or more years of service are entitled to statutory redundancy pay.  In situations where the employer is insolvent, payments may be made from the National Insurance Fund. Free guidance and an online calculator are available on government websites.

A recent tribunal decision in England Harper and Others v BJS Yorkshire Limited, 26 employees brought a claim against their former employer, a freight company, after the company had gone into voluntary liquidation without any notice to employees or any period of consultation. These employees were ultimately awarded a £100,000.00 having complained about being “being kept in the dark” about the future of their employment. While no two cases are the same, it is reassuring to see how the law can assist those who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own.

It is important to be aware that time frames are strict for employment law claims and therefore advice should be sought as soon as possible.

For further information relating to redundancy or for any other employment law issue, feel free to contact us here on using the form below

Renting a Home – 5 Questions all Students Should Ask

first-time-buyer
Last week, many pupils from our local schools will have received their A-Level results.   A common rite of passage for many students finishing school is to leave the family nest and live independently in the big wide world – so after accepting a place in university or college, the next big step is often to secure private rented accommodation.

But before packing up and shipping out, here are 5 questions that all students should ask for before renting property:

1.   Has my landlord given me the basics?

Once you have found your new home, you should make sure that the landlord provides you with the following:-

  • A Tenancy Agreement – This is the contract between you and your landlord giving both of you certain rights, for example, your right to occupy the property for a set period of time and the your landlord’s right to receive rent from you.
  • A Rent Book – This is a book which should contain your landlords contact details – not just the details of any lettings agency. It is compulsory for all landlords in Northern Ireland to provide a rent book for all tenancies.
  • A Statement of Tenancy Terms – This statement is essentially a shorter version of your Tenancy Agreement and should contain details such as both yours and your landlords name and address, contact details of the landlord or letting agency, and details of the amount of deposit you paid and the monthly rental charges
2. Have I done an Inventory?

Make sure that you get an Inventory of the items at the property provided by the landlord including details of condition and damage that these items are in.

You should always accompany your landlord to complete the inventory on the property and photographs can be useful to document the condition of various items as the date that you moved in.

3. Is my deposit protected?

Your landlord will likely take payment of a deposit from you as a type of guarantee against any loss they might face because of the tenancy. This is normally the equivalent of one month’s rent. However, by law,  your landlord has to protect any deposit you pay them. They must enter into an authorised scheme run by one of the 3 companies approved to provide a tenancy deposit scheme in Northern Ireland.

If, at the end of your tenancy your landlord decides to keep some of your deposit for alleged loss or damage and you do not agree with this decision, the tenancy deposit scheme will have a procedure for you to follow to dispute this decision.

4. Has my landlord registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme ?

Before signing for a tenancy, you should also check that your landlord is registered in the Land Registration Scheme – this is a central database that all landlords must sign up to before renting out a property.

5. Is the property HMO registered?

If you are renting out a property with two or more friends, the property must be correctly registered by your landlord as a HMO – that is, a House of Multiple Occupancy.   If a property is HMO registered, it must meet certain standards in terms of safety, facilities provided and occupancy.   It is important to ask your landlord to confirm that the property is HMO registered in this instance.

Renting a place of their own for the first time is a big milestone in any young person’s life and the start of a new chapter in growing up.
Whilst for some this may be daunting, being aware of your legal rights and responsibilities when renting your first home will help ensure that you have a safe, secure place to live so that you can concentrate on enjoying student life to its full.
For further information on tenancy agreements, feel free to contact us here or leave your comments below.