Civil partnership bill expected to become law before the end of the year

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Thursday, April 11th, 2019

For couples who dislike the idea of traditional marriage, but would like full legal recognition of their relationship, the news that opposite-sex couples will soon be able to enter into civil partnerships will be welcomed. This move is designed to address the imbalance that allows same-sex couples to choose, but not mixed-sex couples.

Although no date has been fixed yet, the government is expected to introduce the change during this year as The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill is making good progress through the parliamentary system.


What does the bill cover?

When this private member’s bill becomes enacted, it will grant opposite-sex couples the right to form civil partnerships (currently, only same-sex couples can form civil partnerships). It will also introduce the move from a paper-based system of marriage registration towards a partially-electronic system. At present, the marriage certificate includes details of the father, but not the mother of the bride and groom. There have been calls for the mother’s details to be included and the bill contains this provision.

Commenting on the pending change in legislation, Joyti Henchie, Partner and Head of Family, applauds the move: “Yes, everyone should be entitled to a civil partnership. Society has changed. Marriage does not hold the same status that it did 50 years ago. People are choosing to remain unmarried, but still committing to raising children and buying homes together. This change in the law provides an alternative legal footing for them.”


What difference will it make?

One of the most significant benefits that civil partnerships bring is that the partners have the same inheritance rights as married couples. Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that in the UK the fastest-growing family type was cohabiting couples. There were 3.3million cohabiting families in 2017, more than double the figure in 1996.

Mistakenly, some cohabiting couples believe they have the same rights as married couples or civil partners. However, whilst marriages and civil partnerships give couples statutory legal protections and responsibilities to each other, the situation isn’t the same for those who cohabit, especially when it comes to things like property, inheritance tax, pensions and next-of-kin status. For example, even if a Will is made in favour of a cohabitant, they aren’t entitled to the spouse exemptions from inheritance tax.

 

What about cohabiting couples?

At present cohabitees can enter into a cohabitation agreement. This sets out what they would want to have happen to their property and assets in the event that they separate. However, many people would want the government to go further and extend legal rights to cohabiting couples. Back in 2007, the Law Commission recommended in a report that changes in the law were long overdue, saying that the present system produced unfair outcomes for cohabitants.

 

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