A civil partnership provides legal rights for a same sex couple, similar to those in a marriage, in areas such as wills and inheritance rights, financial issues such as tax pensions and insurance. It is also a contract with legal implications, particularly in terms of the division of assets if the relationship breaks down.
There are a few differences, such as:
- it is not necessary to consummate a civil partnership and consequently it cannot be dissolved for non-consummation
- a civil partnership cannot be dissolved on the basis of the term ‘adultery’, although if one party is unfaithful this would be considered ‘unreasonable behaviour’ a term which can be used.
Civil partnerships are only available to same sex couples – although there have been unsuccessful attempts by close relatives, such as siblings who live together, to obtain similar legal rights in terms of property and inheritance.
When considering entering a civil partnership, if one or both parties has significant wealth built up via a business or inherited, then they may wish to seek to protect this in the event of the partnership failing. This can be done via a pre-partnership agreement.
When a relationship breaks down, a civil partnership must be formally ‘dissolved’ by the court which has powers to make orders relating to financial matters and any children, as in a divorce.
If you have a will, you will need to make another will as it will be invalid once you have entered into partnership and any trusts will need revising.
Same sex couples who want children should seek advice from a family lawyer as the situation can be very complicated and several legal issues can arise regarding parental responsibility.