For a long time, same sex couples were ignored by English Family law. The Civil Partnerships Act of 2004 brought about legal recognition of same sex unions similar to that of civil marriage. Civil Partners are entitled to the same property rights as married opposite-sex couples and have the same tax and pension benefits. There is the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner’s children, as well as responsibility for reasonable maintenance of a partner and their children.
There is a formal process for dissolving partnerships that is similar to divorce. However, some aspects are different. For example, in the dissolution of a civil partnership you cannot cite “adultery” as a reason for the breakdown of the marriage. As with divorce, the one ground for filing for dissolution of a civil partnership is that the civil partnership has broken down permanently.
As with divorce, the Court has powers to order financial relief to parties.
Some same-sex couples may ask a friend to be either a surrogate to have children (in the case of men) or ask a male friend to donate sperm. It makes sense in these situations for parenting agreements to be entered into so that each party knows the extent of their rights and responsibilities (including any financial responsibilities). There should be clear guidelines to avoid any dispute in the future. These can range from full co-parenting, to surrogacy or sperm donation only. Brookman are able to draft such agreements. There are also issues to consider of Parental Responsibility.
It might also be worth considering a pre-registration agreement. Please view our pre-nuptial contracts page for more information.
Where couples either have assets spread internationally, or one party hails from another country, there may be international aspects to consider. Firstly, existing property must be reviewed, because a same sex union may not be recognised in one partner’s country of origin. Secondly, the consequences if a possible dissolution of the partnership and any financial settlement must be reviewed. Where a same sex couple has registered a relationship overseas and this meets various criteria, they will be counted as having formed a valid civil partnership in England and Wales and the civil partnership will need to be dissolved in the usual way.
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