How do the rights of civil partners and married couples differ?
The reason for introducing civil partnerships was to allow same-sex couples to have the same rights accorded to male and female marriages and in
many ways civil partnership has offered this. The law gives civil partners the same rights in terms of finance, pensions, inheritance and maintenance
when there are children under the care of the couple. In addition, most legislation that mentions marriage has been amended to say marriage and civil
partnerships. There are, however, differences between a marriage and a civil partnership. A marriage occurs when the two parties exchange spoken
words, vows and sign a public register. A civil partnership occurs when the second of the parties signs the partnership papers. This is not necessarily a
public thing and can therefore be done in private if preferred. A family solicitor will be able to give you more information.
Marriage comes from religious roots and as a result marriages can be conducted by Church of England clergy without any civil procedures being
undertaken first. Civil partnerships cannot be conducted in this way; they are purely civil procedures undertaken by registrars. There are political
reasons why same-sex partnerships are not called marriage and it has been suggested that prejudice held by some religious persons is one such
reason. Instead partnerships have been created with the stress on them being a new legal concept, instead of a gay marriage.
A key similarity between marriage and civil partnerships is the necessity to end it in a formal manner. There needs to be dissolution akin to that
required by a married couple if they wish to terminate the union. In addition, partners are required to maintain any children of the relationship and will
be assessed in the same way that married couples are assessed for benefits purposes. Family solicitors are knowledgeable on your requirements
under law. There is also a necessity to give public notice of the union, as there is with marriage.
In essence the civil partnership does give the same rights as a marriage and the main reasons for the introduction of the civil partnerships - for tax
benefits and inheritance purposes - have been fulfilled. Perhaps the key legal hurdle that the government will need to consider in future is cohabiters,
who continue to have limited rights.
About the Author
Ben Letham works for Contact Law, the UK's foremost legal brokerage company - finding the right family lawyers for your needs.