Big news for heterosexual couples who don’t want to get married – the law is about to change to allow you to apply for a civil partnership. It’s been a while coming, but one of the last areas of inequality in the world of formally recognised partnerships is about to be rectified.
The choice to opt for a civil partnership rather than marriage has been closed to heterosexual couples ever since civil partnerships were introduced in 2004, when the Civil Partnership Act stated that only same-sex couples were entitled to apply.
A couple of landmark cases in recent months have challenged that, and earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced that heterosexual couples would now have the same entitlement as same-sex couples to apply for a civil partnership.
Is there a demand for civil partnerships?
Currently, there are approximately 3.3million unmarried couples in the UK. These couples live together, have children together, and share financial responsibilities. However, because they are not legally ‘married’ in the eyes of the law, they don’t have the same financial protection as a married couple. With a civil partnership, these couples would now have the same legal treatment for a whole range of issues, including inheritance issues, tax breaks and pensions.
For years, heterosexual couples have been pushing for the same rights as same-sex couples when it comes to civil partnerships. Things reached a head this year when campaigners Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan said that the law as it stands breaches the human rights of heterosexual couples. The High Court agreed, and now the government has been cornered into carrying out a root-and-branch amendment of the current law. The only exception is for siblings who live together, who are still not given the same degree of financial and legal protection.
As religious organisations see declining numbers of ‘bums on pews’, the UK is becoming more of a secular society than ever before. The option to have a formal partnership that does not require the church to recognise it sits well with couples who have no interest in getting married in a church, or who have moral objections to the concept of ‘marriage’. So yes, the demand is certainly there, which is why this amendment will probably be pushed through fairly quickly.
The ‘Common Law’ myth
Ask almost any unmarried couple who have been together for a long time if their partnership is recognised as a ‘common law’ partnership, and many would say yes. However, common law marriage is a myth, at least in the UK. While common law itself is an intrinsic part of British law, it certainly has no legal relevance to partnerships, and while the term ‘common law wife’ may have been widely used for years, it’s actually meaningless and has absolutely no basis in law. Up until the most recent announcement by Theresa May, you were either married, or you weren’t.
The new law, though, will not automatically offer protection for co-habiting couples who do not choose to formalise things in a civil partnership. Those who simply and for whatever reason decide to carry on ‘just living together’ will be in exactly the same position as they were before, with little or no financial or legal surety or protection, regardless of whether or not they have children. Parental rights will still automatically be awarded to the mother (always a bone of contention in custody battles between co-habiting partners), and the relatives of a partner are still well within their rights to challenge any will that names the unmarried partner as the sole or main beneficiary.
So opting for a civil partnership is a good idea if you want to formalise your relationship, protect your assets, or even just ‘tie the knot’ without a church or registry office ceremony. The infrastructure should be relatively easy to put into place, and our estimate is that civil partnerships for heterosexual couples will be on the books by the middle of next year.
If you’re unsure about your rights as a couple, whether you’re married, in a same-sex civil partnership, or co-habiting, talk to a family law expert who will be able to advise you on your status. Jane Wheeler is an experienced family lawyer and can be contacted on 023 9224 6714 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have set out below a full list of the services our Family Department can provide whatever your circumstances. If you do however have a query which does not relate to any matter detailed below, please do contact our Family team who will endeavour to assist you.
Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution
Whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent within proceedings or whether you are simply contemplating the same we can provide guidance throughout the entire process. We can assist with:
- Drafting of documents
- Negotiations with the other party
- Correspondence with third parties such as the Court
- Advice face to face, by telephone, by email.
Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
Whether you are planning to marry or indeed have now married and wish to formalise arrangements in the event of separation we can advise and assist with the following:
- Drafting agreements
- Negotiating settlement
- Corresponding with all parties
Whether you are married or living together and in the event you decide to go your separate ways we can assist in formally documenting terms of separation. We can assist in the following ways:
- Drafting Separation Agreements whether in contemplation of divorce or whether to simply record the split of a cohabiting couple
- Negotiations with third parties
- Providing you with advice whether face to face, by telephone or by email.
Arbitration is an alternative to resolving disputes through the Court. At Verisona Law we can assist in a number of ways either by assisting you through the Arbitration or by referring matters to our in house Arbitrator. We offer competitive arbitration rates and a member of our team will be happy to assist with any queries in this regard. Please see our current articles on Arbitration for more details about the process.
If you have chosen not to marry but wish to live together you may wish to formalise the arrangements and details for doing so. We can assist in the following:
- Drafting cohabitation agreements/living together agreements
- Negotiations with all parties
- Advising you in person, by telephone or email as appropriate.
Divorce where Business are involved
We have extensive experience in dealing with breakdown of marriage where one or both parties are owners of businesses or indeed it may be the family business. We have experience in providing you with advice and signposting for business valuations and will ensure that the business as an asset is dealt with appropriately within any proceedings.
In addition to being able to provide specialised advice in relation to Public Sector pensions our team at Verisona Law has vast knowledge concerning all pension arrangements and can ensure that they are dealt with appropriately within any divorce proceedings. Please seek advice from a member of our team.
We are able to advise on all aspects of Parental Responsibility including:
- Agreements / Orders
- Exercising your Parental Responsibility rights and duties where appropriate
- Arising out of Parental Responsibility we can advise on applications for a Specific Issue Order to the Court if appropriate.
If you have any queries concerning Parental Responsibility and its impact on you or indeed whether you have Parental Responsibility for your children, please seek advice from a member of our team.
Assisting through Mediation
Whilst we do direct a number of matters through Mediation, this does not mean that you cannot have legal advice throughout the process. We can advise and assist you through the Mediation process and arrange thereafter to draw up formally any agreement reached be this by way of a Consent Order in divorce proceedings or simply to record in an open document the agreement you have reached at Mediation concerning the subject of your dispute.
Whether you are married or otherwise, or indeed simply have an interest in a property owned by another we can provide you with advice and assistance including;
- Applications to the Court
- Negotiations with all parties
- Advising and assisting you face to face, by telephone or by email.
This is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without the involvement of the Court. The Collaborative process requires both parties to have a Collaborative Lawyer and endeavours to resolve any disputes by way of four way meetings. We at Verisona Law can assist you through the Collaborative process. If this is an avenue of resolving dispute that you would be interested in, please contact a member of our team.
We at Verisona Law can provide you with advice and guidance concerning any disputes you may have relating to your child. This may be with whom the child lives, with whom the child spends time with, a specific issue concerning a child or steps that you wish to take to prevent something happening (Prohibited Steps Order). We can also advise you in relation to maintenance disputes with a third party guidance with dealing with the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a query with any issue concerning your child please contact a member of our team.
Change of Name
Please contact a member of our team if you are interested in changing your first or surname to discuss the drafting of a Change of Name Deed. We offer a fixed price for a Change of Name and we can provide you with further information upon request.
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