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.

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.

Civil Partnerships

 

gay cakeFollowing the historic outcome of the Republic of Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum last week,there have been cries throughout Northern Ireland for equality for same-sex partners on the same level.

England, Scotland and Wales had their first same-sex weddings in 2014 after changes in the law allowed for marriage equality.

However, currently in Northern Ireland, same-sex couples can enter a Civil Partnership but not a legal marriage.

A protest march for equality will take place tomorrow Saturday 13th June in Belfast with campaign groups such as Amnesty International and The Rainbow Project taking part.

So, what are the rights of same-sex couples who enter into a Civil Partnership??

Under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, same-sex couples essentially have the same legal rights as couples who have entered into a civil marriage.

So by entering into a civil partnership, same-sex couples 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 Civil Partnership Act 2004 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.

Civil Partnerships & Same- Sex Marriage- what’s the difference??

As civil partnerships offer the same legal treatment to couples as marriage, some people may wonder why there is such a push for same-sex marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland. Some may ask ‘If you have the same rights as a civil partner, then what’s all the fuss about?’

However, civil partnership is a legal relationship. Opposite sex couples can choose to be married by way of a religious or civil ceremony, whereas entering into a civil partnership is exclusively a civil process.

Many people find that to separate the two in this way is unfair – that whilst same sex couples have legal rights, these are not exactly the same as those given to opposite sex couples. And equal should mean equal right?

It’s an interesting area of discussion and one that it would be interesting to hear from you all on. Please feel free to post your comments and remarks for us below!

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