What is a civil partnership?
Civil partnerships allow homosexual couples to enter into a formal legal bond similar to traditional marriage. A couple in a civil partnership enjoys many of the same privileges as their married heterosexual counterparts and is subject to similar duties and responsibilities.
In the eyes of the law civil partners are treated the same as married couples with regard to certain issues, such as:
- employment benefits
- income-related benefits, tax credits and child support
- ability to apply for parental responsibility for your partner’s child
- protection from domestic violence
- recognition in intestacy rules.
A civil partnership is still, however, a completely distinct legal relationship. One of the differences from a traditional same-sex marriage is that the partnership is cemented when the second partner signs the documents, rather than on the articulation of vows, which is the case with heterosexual marriages. Unlike traditional marriages there can be no religious theme to a civil partnership ceremony.
Who can register a civil partnership?
Two main conditions that need to be met for two people of the same sex to enter into a civil partnership are that they are
- 16 years of age or older
- not already married or in another civil relationship
- not relatives.
Those aged 16 or 17 may however need the written approval of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
How to register a civil partnership
The first thing a couple intending to register a civil partnership must do is to give notice of their intention to a local registration office. It must be done in the couple’s area of residence (they must have lived there for 7 days or more) even if the ceremony is to be held elsewhere. The notice must also be given by both partners in person.
Included with the notice must be a written declaration from each partner that they believe there is no legal reason which prohibits their union and that they have lived in the area of the register office for the preceding 7 days. The office might ask for supporting evidence of these claims when the notices are submitted.
A 15-day waiting period then follows, to give the opportunity for objections to be made. If this passes without any objections, the couple will be granted a document called a civil partnership schedule with which they will be able to register their partnership. In the case of an objection having been lodged, the document cannot be issued unless it is withdrawn or deemed invalid.
The process is complete once the couple have signed the civil partnership schedule in the presence of two witnesses and the civil partnership registrar. A certificate to mark the registration can be obtained but must be paid for.
The overall cost of the process varies from region to region – for more information on this visit this site.
Breakdown of a civil partnership
A civil partnership will automatically come to an end when one member of the couple dies. There are three ways that a civil partnership can be ended before this point. These are:
- dissolution order
- separation order
A civil relationship must have already lasted for at least one year before a dissolution order can be applied for. For it to be granted it must be proven that the partnership has broken down irretrievably, based on one of the following facts (which are 4 of the 5 used in marital divorce procedure):
The reason for the absence of adultery from the list is that it is defined as intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. A homosexual affair could still however be used to argue unreasonable behaviour.
The forms and information required for a dissolution order can be obtained here. You may also find them at a local court that deals with civil partnership dissolution.
Unlike dissolution orders, the civil partnership does not have to be a year old in order to apply for a separation order. A separation order does not, however, represent a complete severing of ties with your partner, as neither will be able to register a new civil partnership or get married unless the partnership is dissolved (with a dissolution order).
An extra condition for a separation order is that it will not be granted until the court is happy that adequate arrangements have been made for any children caught up in the separation.
For a separation order to be issued, one of the same 4 facts listed in the Dissolution Order section must be proven. Separation orders can be applied for at a county court.
If a civil partnership does not conform to the conditions laid out at the start of this section (at least 16 years old, not relatives) then it can be ended by an annulment.
If a civil partnership is terminated by an annulment in can fall into one of two categories:
- void – this means that the partnership was illegal from the start and never existed in the eyes of the law
- voidable – this means that the civil partnership was legal when it was registered but is now illegal
Annulments will usually need to be applied for within 3 years of the date on which the civil partnership was registered. Courts will seek assurances about the future of any children before an annulment is granted.
If looking to end a civil partnership through any of these three methods, you may need legal help. To find a local, affordable specialist solicitor, use our Find a Solicitor service.
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