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 ability to acquire Parental Responsibility for their partner’s child/children.
- 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.