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Civil Partnerships

Until the Civil Partnership Act in 2006, Civil Partners had no particular rights against each other at all.  They were just treated as two people sharing a property.  There was no maintenance, no split of capital assets and no pension sharing.

Since the Act, however, Civil Partners have effectively had to learn the Divorce Law that heterosexual relationships have spent the last 40 years getting used to.  Therefore they can now do pension shares, asset re-adjustments and maintenance liabilities.  The Law on Civil Partnerships and marriage are now broadly brought into line with each other.

Civil Partners can inherit on intestacy.  They could not before.  People who had lived together perhaps for many years prior to the passing of the Act used to have to use the Inheritance Act to stand any real chance of giving any future support, which has caused hardship in the past where there is no Will for example, and where a cohabitee might be competing with a wider family who have inherited under the intestacy rules.

Thanks to the 2008 Statute, Civil Partners can now legally and effectively for all purposes, become the joint parents of a child whom, by definition, could only actually be a natural child of one of them. This applies whether it is two men who adopt a child or when one of the men is the sperm donor, or where you have a lesbian couple with sperm donation and one them was the natural mother and the other one is not.  Being in a Civil Partnership now means that they are both treated as the natural parents.  It is also fair to say however, that this does not preclude, for example, the sperm donor or the surrogate mother from making applications to the Court for Contact Orders to those children, even if, for example, it has never been envisaged at conception that they would do so. We would recommend that Civil Partners enter into a written agreement with the surrogate mother or sperm donor about what their intentions are as regards future contact.  This would not be fully legally binding but it would certainly dispose of many arguments based on events prior to the conception, which can be a feature of these kinds of cases.

Civil Partners on separation have the same problems as heterosexual partners when it comes to their children.  There could be the additional difficulty of a surrogate mother or sperm donor but in reality the majority of these disputes are likely to be between the Civil Partners themselves and involve the usual problems of how much time any child or children from the relationship spend with the other parent.

It should also be noted that, if for example, two lesbian partners have a child prior to the passing of the 2008 Act, then the sperm donor has an automatic right to apply to the Court for contact and Residency Orders in respect of that child.  This would even be the case if the lesbian partners were in a properly constructed Civil Partnership because it is only the passing of the 2008 Act that gave Civil Partners the right to be natural parents for all purposes, so there will still be quite a few people who are now in Civil Partnerships who may have conceived children many years ago and therefore do not have the protection of the 2008 Act and thus do not have the same rights in respect of those children as they would have had if the child had been born following the 2008 Act.

Broadly speaking the dissolution of the Civil Partnership follows the same lines as the dissolution of a marriage.  There are some differences but, depending on the specific facts, not such as would create a major problem for anyone advising Civil Partners about the breakdown of a relationship.

If you would like to know more or wish to book an appointment please contact us today.

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